Well-lamented have been gold’s problems this year. It is no secret that gold and the major ETFs backed by the physical metal have spiraled lower as a 12-year bull market has come to a breath-taking halt. The iShares Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU) is down 17.5% this year.
Silver, gold’s more abundant, cheaper cousin, has performed far worse. The ETFS Physical Silver Shares (NYSEArca: SIVR) tells that tale as the fund has plunged 28.3% since the start of the year. The dislocation between silver and gold has become more pronounced on speculation that the Federal Reserve will start cutting back its quantitative easing programs in light of the improving economic conditions. [Silver ETFs Underperforming Gold]
Things were not supposed to be this way for silver. Heading into 2013, analysts were bullish on the white metal, thinking silver would either be supported currency debasement at the hands of widespread monetary easing or that an improving global economy would spark increase industrial demand. And just as gold’s drop has claimed plenty of victims among mining stocks, silver’s slide has done the same. [Peru ETF Hit by Falling Metals Prices]
The Global X Silver Miners ETF (NYSEArca: SIL) is down a whopping 42.7% year-to-date as silver names ranging from Silver Wheaton (NYSE: SLW) to Hecla Mining (NYSE: HL) get taken to the woodshed. If there is any silver lining, no pun intended, to SIL’s dramatic decline it is that many of its almost 30 holdings are now trading at enticing valuations. SIL’s current P/E is 22.25 down from 24.67 last year, according to Global X data.
Even better potential bargains are seen within the fund’s top-10 holdings. For example, Silver Wheaton and Hecla have forward price-to-earnings ratios of 13.4 and 10.3, respectively. In a sign of how discounted these stocks have become, Hecla’s trailing P/E is over 75. Fresnillo Plc trades at just 11.2 times forward estimated earnings while shares of Pan American Silver (NasdaqGS: PAAS) have a forward P/E of just 12. Coeur D’Alene Mines (NYSE: CDE) can be had for less than 11.4 times for estimated profits.
There is rub. P/E ratios, while convenient tools, can stay low or high for extended periods of times. That is to say SIL and its components could be cheaper in a week or two than they are today. Not to mention, waiting around for SIL to move higher can be trying on investors as the ETF has a standard deviation of 41.2%.