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Q:Why did the Reddit silver short squeeze fail?
A: Why was it not a silver short squeeze? Because all the evidence points to a blogger/speculator buying $35 call options on silver, then posting about the “mother of all short squeezes” on Reddit and selling for 5x profit in a matter of three days! In other words, this looks more like a classic “pump and dump” carried out in full public view. The $35 call options on silver were trading around $0.30 on Wednesday January 27 but after the massive promotion on Reddit, they had spiked to $1.65 on Monday February 1. If this had been a short squeeze, the market would not have spiked down on Tuesday February 2, it would have had a much longer bubble runup like 2011, when there was excess investor demand and a lack of supply short term.
Why is it not feasible or even possible to “squeeze” the silver shorts? Because there is a world of difference between shorting a stock and hedging a commodity. The Gamestop shorts were naked, that is the shorters had to borrow the Gamestop stock and sell it in the hope of buying it back at a lower price. If enough investors buy Gamestop stock, it puts upside pressure on the stock price and the shorts get margin calls which they either meet, ie. put up more margin or buy back stock to cover their short position. However, the silver “shorts” are not naked, they are mostly covered hedges of physical silver stored in vaults. It is true that silver has an outsized paper short position compared to other metals but the reason is quite simple. Silver is the only common metal that is mined primarily as a byproduct of other metals. Fully 70% of all silver production is a byproduct of copper, lead-zinc and gold mines. But those copper, lead-zinc and gold miners tend to be very large and diversified global mining companies who are happy to sell forward or hedge their byproduct silver production so as to lock in that revenue and leave themselves unhedged to their primary metals. Who buys these forward sales? The bullion bankers, or commercials, whose business is not going long or short anything but rather charging a fee for their services. When a bullion banker goes long physical silver by entering into a contract to buy silver from a large diversified mining company, they automatically go “short” in the paper market to balance their position. When the silver price rises, the value of the commercials physical silver holdings, including future holdings, also rises so they simply cover their hedge and reset it at a higher price. This they can do ad infinitum so it is neither feasible or even possible to squeeze the silver “shorts”. If anyone were to try to squeeze the silver paper “shorts”, the biggest winner by far would be the commercials because of their physical “longs”.
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