Stock market investors have enjoyed huge gains over the past decade, and even the bear market earlier in 2020 has given way to an impressive run higher that broadly clawed back most of its losses. Yet some market participants are concerned that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and they worry that the efforts that governments and central banks have taken to stabilize the global economy could have long-lasting negative consequences.
In light of all this, one asset type that was out of favor for years has suddenly come back into the limelight: precious metals. Gold and silver have moved sharply higher, with the yellow metal topping $2,000 per ounce for the first time ever and silver reaching its best levels in years. Silver in fact has experienced larger price gains in percentage terms, and that's attractive for those looking to maximize their returns. Here are three options for giving your portfolio exposure to this bull market for the precious metal.
1. iShares Silver Trust
If you just want pure exposure to the price of silver bullion, then iShares Silver Trust (SLV 2.69%) is an easy-to-understand vehicle for investors. The ETF trades just like a stock, with shares available throughout the trading day.
iShares Silver Trust owns over 570 million ounces of silver, and with about 615 million shares outstanding, each share of iShares Silver corresponds to about 0.93124 ounces of silver. That ratio has fallen over time from the 1 ounce per share it was at the ETF's inception in 2006 because the trust has had to sell off bullion in order to cover the 0.5% in annual fees that iShares gets.
For the most part, iShares Silver has done a good job of tracking silver prices. There are some occasional short-term disparities, but with institutional investors making sure that its share prices stay in line with changes in spot silver, iShares Silver has been a solid choice for those looking to track silver over longer periods of time.
2. Fortuna Silver Mines
Plenty of miners produce silver, but many only do so as a byproduct of mining other metals. For instance, gold and silver often appear close to each other, so mining companies specializing in gold may have significant silver production simply because it makes economic sense to collect both metals during processing. By contrast, Fortuna Silver Mines (FSM 2.41%) concentrates on silver, and mined 1.82 million ounces of it in the first quarter. However, it also produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold, which accounted for roughly a third of its proceeds from metal sales during the period.
Fortuna has two main mining properties, one in Peru and one in Mexico. It's also developing an open-pit mine in northern Argentina. Overall, it has about 37.2 million ounces of silver in proven and probable reserves, along with 220,000 ounces of gold. That's enough to keep those mines productive for decades.
Like many miners, Fortuna is experiencing considerable disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They've been severe enough to force the silver miner to withdraw guidance for 2020. However, with all-in sustaining cash costs of production below $11 per silver equivalent ounce, the rise in silver prices from the upper $10s to the upper $20s per ounce should dramatically improve its profit potential even with higher coronavirus-related costs.
3. Endeavour Silver
Another silver specialist is Endeavour Silver (EXK 4.15%). Like Fortuna, it's based in Canada, but its mining properties are concentrated in Mexico. The company sold about 635,000 ounces of silver and 5,200 ounces of gold during the second quarter, with all-in sustaining costs of just under $15 per ounce of silver during the period. In addition to its three producing mines, Endeavour has seen early successes in its exploration efforts at other sites.
Temporary suspensions of operations due to COVID-19 have depressed Endeavour's production levels -- quarterly production topped 1 million ounces of silver and came close to the 10,000 ounces of gold a year ago. Nevertheless, Endeavour has a lot of promise, and if industry conditions return to normal, the mining stock will be in a much stronger position to profit from higher silver prices.
Keep your eyes on these silver stocks
The values of these three investments have all risen explosively along with the price of silver bullion. Investors should expect their prices to be volatile, but those who expect silver in particular to move higher should look closely at these picks for their portfolios.