Investors’ desire for safe havens amid the global debt upheaval has led them to precious metals, and within the category exchange traded funds tracking silver and miner stocks are leading the way.

The largest ETF for silver, iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca: SLV), was up more than 3% on Monday with concerns over Europe’s sovereign crisis and the U.S. debt ceiling fueling interest in “poor man’s gold.”

Investors have also discovered an appetite recently for ETFs that invest in miner stocks, which can behave differently from bullion prices. Global X Silver Miners (NYSEArca: SIL) added over 2% on Monday while Market Vectors Gold Miners (NYSEArca: GDX) rose 1.5% at last check.

Gold miners have been raising their dividends in an effort to compete with bullion ETFs, according to reports. [Miners Boost Dividends]

Gold prices cracked $1,600 an ounce on Monday as U.S. stocks pulled back sharply in the “risk off” trade. [Precious Metals ETFs Rise on Debt Woes; Gold Tops $1,600]

While an increase in the U.S. debt limit is “extremely likely to occur, the highly politicized battle in achieving it is adding to economic and financial uncertainty that can take some of the blame for a growth-stifling lack of business and consumer confidence,” said David Kelly, chief market strategist at JP Morgan Funds. “Similarly, in Europe, an emergency meeting of Eurozone leaders is set for Thursday as concerns about debt in Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Spain have now spread to Italy.”

Debt fears are pushing gold and silver prices higher, as well as companies that mine the metals.

For example, Market Vectors Gold Miners “exhibits significantly greater leverage to gold prices than direct physical ownership,” says Morningstar’s Abraham Bailin in a profile of the ETF. If the underlying drivers of physical gold remain strong as mining operations expand, the ETF “should benefit in spades.”

Options traders were placing bullish bets on the gold miner ETF last week, The Wall Street Journal reported. “While the metal is widely considered a refuge from macroeconomic uncertainty, gold-mining stocks are a lot more volatile than the metal itself, and many have lagged behind gold’s rise,” the newspaper said.

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