After rallying at the start of the year, silver stocks and silver and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) spent months giving back those gains and badly lagging competing gold products. Historically, silver prices are strongly correlated with gold, so when bullion moves higher, expectations are in place that the white metal will follow suit. It took awhile for silver ETFs to get their respective acts together, but it happened.
After putting in a bottom in June, the iShares Silver Trust (NYSEARCA:SLV), the largest ETF backed by physical holdings of silver, surged more than 11% just this month to reside near its highest levels in several years.
While silver ETFs are more volatile than their gold counterpart, the two precious metals are often bolstered by the same factors, including geopolitical tensions, lower interest rates, investors’ desire for safe-haven assets and a weaker dollar, among other factors.
Gold and silver ETFs share another trait: miners tend to overshoot price action in those metals, both to the downside and the upside. That explains why investors that keep track of such things have been seeing so many silver ETFs on the 52-week high lists in recent weeks.
Indeed, the white metal has rallied in epic fashion over the past two months, but these silver ETFs could have more upside in store for investors, particularly if the dollar declines.
Silver ETFs to Buy: ETFMG Prime Junior Silver ETF (SILJ)
Expense Ratio: 0.69% per year, or $69 annually per $10,000 invested
The ETFMG Prime Junior Silver ETF (NYSEARCA:SILJ) has been around for nearly seven years, making it one of the original silver ETFs dedicated to small-cap miners. While the combination of miners and small-cap stocks might suggest that SILJ is not a suitable alternative for conservative investors, with this silver ETF up nearly 23% this month, it’s hard to knock it when silver prices are rising.
SILJ holds 32 stocks “seeks to replicate as closely as possible, before fees and expenses, the price and yield performance of the Prime Junior Silver Miners & Explorers Index,” according to ETFMG.
Canadian miners account for over two-thirds of SILJ’s weight while U.S.-based silver producers check in at almost 17%. There is some emerging markets exposure (almost 16%) because Peru and Brazil are major silver producers.
Global X Silver Miners ETF (SIL)
Expense Ratio: 0.65%
Home to nearly $450 million in assets under management, the Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSEARCA:SIL) is one of the largest silver miners ETFs. When the white metal surges, this silver ETF is a high-fly act in its own right as highlighted by its month-to-date gain of almost 13%.
A world awash with negative interest rates, central banks lowering borrowing costs and thirst for safe assets are among the factors boding well for silver ETFs, including SIL. But this fund is attractive for another reason: Silver’s valuations relative to gold are appealing.
“A common valuation metric to assess whether silver is undervalued relative to gold is the gold/silver ratio. A high ratio indicates silver could be undervalued,” said Global X in a recent note. “Historically, since 1998, the gold/silver ratio has averaged a level of around 64. As shown in the chart below, although silver has rallied recently, the ratio remains well above historical levels at just below 90. This could be an indication that within the precious metals complex, silver may be more of a relative value play than gold.”
iShares MSCI Peru ETF (EPU)
Expense Ratio: 0.59%
Obviously, the iShares MSCI Peru ETF (NYSEARCA:EPU) is not a dedicated silver ETF, but it is the only ETF dedicated to stocks in one of the world’s largest silver-producing countries. On that note, EPU has been a disappointment this year as it has traded mostly flat.
EPU is more than a decade old, tracks the MSCI All Peru Capped Index and holds just 24 stocks. That roster size is reflective of the small size of Peru’s equity market, but EPU does a more than adequate job of representing the commodity’s intensive nature in Peru’s economy, with a weight of more than 46% dedicated to materials stocks, including some silver miner stocks found in the fund’s top 10 holdings.
Peru’s central bank recently cut interest rates, joining a slew of emerging markets that have done so, but that move was on the back of some weak economic data, indicating investors may want to wait for the numbers to firm up in Peru before embracing EPU.
iShares MSCI Global Silver Miners ETF (SLVP)
Expense Ratio: 0.39%
As you’ve probably noticed, miners ETFs carry higher fees than typical sector and industry funds and many are pricier than standard commodities funds like SLV. I’m not saying the iShares MSCI Global Silver Miners ETF (CBOE:SLVP) is the best silver ETF, but at the very least, it is the cheapest silver miners ETF as highlighted by its annual fee of just 0.39%.
SLVP tracks the MSCI ACWI Select Silver Miners Investable Market Index and is higher by nearly 26% year-to-date. The trade-off in getting this silver ETF’s lower-by-comparison fee is concentration risk. This iShares fund allocates 23.23% of its weight to just one stock: Wheaton Precious Metals Group (NYSE:WPM).
That stock is up 41.12% year-to-date and looks poised for a technical breakout, but if the market sours on Wheaton, it will be next to impossible for SLVP to emerge unscathed.
Aberdeen Standard Physical Silver Shares ETF (SIVR)
Expense Ratio: 0.30%
The Aberdeen Standard Physical Silver Shares ETF (NYSEARCA:SIVR) is not a miners fund. Rather, this silver ETF is backed by physical holdings of the white metal, meaning it is appropriate for long-term investors looking for some commodities exposure as a way of adding some diversity to equity and fixed income-heavy portfolios.
SIVR’s primary rival is the aforementioned SIL. While the iShares product is bigger, long-term investors should be seduced by size because SIVR is 20 basis points per year cheaper than SIL.
Noting that commodities funds like SIL and SIVR do not pay interest or dividends, meaning that capital appreciation is the sole driver of investor outcomes, fees really make a difference here. This makes SIVR is the best silver ETF to buy for cost-conscious investors.
As of this writing, Todd Shriber did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.