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Did you hear the unspoken footnote to Ben Bernanke's latest statement on monetary policy? If you use your Foolish decoder ring, you'll find that the intention to maintain this zero-bound interest-rate environment through mid-2013 is akin to another injection of support for the bull market in precious metals.
Motley Fool CAPS member ChrisGraley heard the Federal Reserve chairman's subtext and proclaimed his intention to recuperate his initial investment in silver once the price reaches $60 per ounce. Once an investor can reclaim his or her initial capital, with only profits left at the table, one can essentially declare the remaining exposure "risk-free." Newcomers to the space may have to wait a bit longer to achieve that desirable position, but I believe it is not too late to initiate such a journey.
Gold touched a new record high of $1,800 Wednesday, and the sudden influx of capital into the shares of precious-metal miners caused the group to finally break ranks with the broader equity market and march higher amid a down day for the major indices. Silver continues to lag a bit on a relative basis, laying a strong foundation to recapture a $40 handle provided gold's upward momentum holds in the near term.
Particularly in this ruthless market environment, I suspect that most Fools would delight in the prospect of a 50% gain for silver from $40 to $60 per ounce. But what if I told you I thought you had a terrific shot at outperforming that result with a stake in shares of Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW ) ?
Silver Wheaton continues to deliver strong leverage to price gains in silver by means of a unique business model that enjoys an essentially fixed-cost structure. The company reported a 105% increase in revenue for the second quarter, which corresponded with a 108% increase in the realized price of silver year over year. Over the same period, however, adjusted earnings skyrocketed by 181% to reach $148.1 million. CEO Randy Smallwood explains the company's undeniably attractive position:
The mining industry once again finds itself facing significant inflationary pressures, resulting in accelerating operating and capital costs. The benefits to Silver Wheaton in this environment are twofold. First, Silver Wheaton is immune from inflationary cost pressures as our unique business model guarantees essentially fixed operating costs of approximately US$4/oz. Fixed costs provide our investors with significant margin expansion as silver prices climb. Second, as mining companies' capital commitments continue to materially increase, and cash needs arise, Silver Wheaton can offer a very attractive source of funds compared to other forms such as debt and equity.
Indeed, major gold producer Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX ) offered a crystal-clear window into the industry's trend of rising capital costs. Low-cost standouts like Yamana Gold (NYSE: AUY ) continue to outpace peers on operating costs, but the industry at large conveys an obvious trend of cost inflation. The recent fall in oil prices might alleviate those pressures a bit, but overall, miners continue to struggle to contain their all-in costs of production.
Silver Wheaton's second-quarter production was negatively affected by temporary hiccups that Goldcorp (NYSE: GG ) experienced in the ramp-up of its world-class Penasquito mine. But consider this: Silver Wheaton continues to anticipate an 80% increase in production to reach 43 million silver-equivalent ounces by 2015. With the exception of elite outliers like Eldorado Gold (NYSE: EGO ) , Silver Wheaton's production growth profile is virtually unrivaled in the industry.
So what do you get when you combine industry-leading growth, essentially fixed costs, a strong outlook for sustained upward momentum in the silver price, and the strategic potential represented by more than $700 million in cash on hand? Well, fellow Fools, what you end up with is an immensely attractive vehicle with which to target the next 50% gain in silver's multiyear trajectory … and beyond. By the time silver strikes $60 per ounce, I believe Silver Wheaton will be likely to deliver a 75% gain from its current price. In the longer term, I still maintain that the stock will strike $100 per share.