Demand Remains Healthy as Growth in Mined Silver Slows

Silver is prized primarily for its dual role as a monetary asset as well as an important industrial metal used in a widerange of applications. Industrial demand for silver, the largest component of total silver offtake, is set to increase its share of total demand in 2016, according to the Silver Institute. In 2015, industrial fabrication demand accounted for an estimated 54% of total physical silver demand.

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Metal Prices Record Modest Improvement

For the first month of 2016, metal prices seemed to improve or stabilize for the most part. Gold moved $58.60 per ounce (oz) higher to $1,127.10/oz. Even though platinum was only down $15/oz, palladium was down $63/oz to $496/oz, an 11.3% decrease. Iron ore improved $3.50/dry metric ton (dmt) to $44/dmt. Base metals were relatively flat, except for zinc, which posted a $140.50/mt improvement of 9.2%.

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Rough Diamond Prices Remain Under Pressure

Rough diamond prices will remain under pressure over the next 12-18 months. Prices dropped by about 18% during the first 11 months of 2015 due to slowing sales of diamond jewelry, according to Moody’s Investors Service. This latest drop in prices, which would be 28% below the 2014 peak, may be insufficient to revive demand, and the analysts said producers may have to cut costs (reduce prices) even more in 2016.

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Demand for Rare Earths Will Grow Steadily

Global demand for rare earths is forecast to increase 3.5% per year to 149,500 metric tons (mt) in 2019, valued at $4.5 billion. The largest increases are forecast for the permanent magnet segment, boosted by expanding production of advanced neodymium magnets for applications such as wind turbines and hybrid and electric vehicles (H/EVs). Rising output of nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries is also expected to fuel rare earths demand. In addition, upgrades to oil refining sectors in emerging countries are projected to boost global catalytic cracking capacity, supporting the production of fluid cracking catalysts, and associated demand for lanthanum and cerium. Rising production of steel, motor vehicles, and electronics is also expected to drive rare earths consumption. These and other trends are presented in World Rare Earths, a new study from the Freedonia Group Inc., a Cleveland-based industry research firm.

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