Golden Opportunity to Sell Silver

07/28/2011 3:57 pm EST


Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor,

The gold and silver markets today don’t have any better idea than you or I do about whether a deal on the debt ceiling or a US default is more likely. But after the run-up in gold prices to a new nominal record, investors are getting edgy. Any rumor of progress is an indication to sell.

As of 1:06 pm ET, gold is flat for the day and silver is down about 1.9% on news reports that the House of Representatives will vote tonight on a Republican plan to raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion as part of a package with $917 billion in budget cuts over the next ten years.

It looks like enough Republicans are falling in line behind House Speaker John Boehner to give the bill the 218 Republican votes it needs to pass. (It’s unlikely that the bill will pick up more than a handful of Democratic votes.)

And then it’s on to the Senate, where enough Democrats and Independents to kill Boehner’s bill have sent the House a letter promising to do just that.

No one in the Republican majority in the House is talking about a plan that might be if the Senate defeats the House bill.

But strangely enough, as chaotic as this all seems, the gold and silver markets see this as progress toward a deal—and I think they’ve got that right.

Until the House votes on the Boehner bill, nothing else can move forward. And even if the House passes the Boehner bill and the Senate defeats it, that would then create a chance for a compromise that split the difference between the two measures.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that the House would pass such a deal. It would certainly take Democratic votes to make up for Republican defections.

But the markets see reason for optimism in this scenario. You can at least see the outline of a process that would result in something other than a US default in the first half of August.

(Any deal that emerged from this framework is unlikely to deliver the kind of serious long-term deficit-reduction plan that the ratings companies are looking for. In other words, it would avoid default but probably not a credit rating downgrade. But, hey that’s a problem for another day.)

Now this degree of very limited optimism wouldn’t be enough to move gold and silver prices except that those two metals have climbed so high as investors looked for hedges against a US default. With prices so high, the uncertainties of default make a further advance unlikely, and the whiff of a compromise says, “Take profits.”

That’s what owners of gold and silver have been doing today every time a rumor that seems to advance the cause of a solution crosses their Bloomberg. In my Jubak Picks portfolio, I've been looking to sell my position in Silver Wheaton (SLW) ever since I missed the last top in silver. I'm going to take the opportunity to sell today. (I’m selling with a 9.1% gain since I added it to the portfolio on November 8, 2010.)

Take your profits in Silver Wheaton now. Wait for the dip in silver and gold that we should get when/if Congress raises the debt ceiling. And then buy into something else in the silver and gold sector in preparation for the credit-downgrade drama.

Full disclosure: I do not own shares of any stock mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. The mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, may or may not now own positions in any stock mentioned in this post. The fund did own shares of Silver Wheaton as of the end of March. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of March, see the fund’s portfolio at here.

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