Something interesting appeared in the daily NYMEX report of its silver warehouse stockpile data: Canada's largest bullion depository (and one of five total) reclassified a whopping 5.2 million ounces of silver from Registered to Eligible status. In order to get a sense of how big this amount is, which amounts to just under $238 million at today's fixing price, it represents just over 25% of the total silver stored at Scotia Mocatta, and about 5% of the total silver held across all depositories. The reason for this substantial shift is given as follows: "due to a reporting reclassification, 5,287,142 t oz was moved from Registered to Eligible." That's a pretty substantial reporting reclassification. Of course it could well be nothing but that, although one would imagine that a fat finger is somewhat unlikely when it comes to such a material amount. On the other hand, as those who follow the NYMEX data know too well, registered silver is actual physical Comex silver. Eligible on the other hand is sometimes called "someone else's silver" as it does not go through assays on exit/selling events. In other words, this is silver that can not be used to make delivery under a futures contract. As a result of this reclass, total registered silver dropped by 13% from 41.0 million ounces to 35.8 million. Assuming one does not have full faith in the simple error story, does this mean that deliverable silver just dropped by 13% overnight (this event occurred yesterday, but was reported as usual with a 24 hour delay)? And if so, is this effective transformation of physical to semi-paper silver indicative of what we may expect from other depositories in the next few days as the delivery notices start coming in?
Snapshot of silver holdings (link):
For those who are confused about the distinction between the two categories, SilverAxis has done a good analysis:
For those who aren’t familiar with the terminology, the registered category of COMEX warehouse bullion stocks generally refers to gold and silver bars against which COMEX warehouse receipts are outstanding. The COMEX publishes these stocks on a daily basis and they can be found here: Silver | Gold. The registered category is the total pool of gold and silver available at any time to meet delivery requirements under expiring futures contracts or to establish initial futures contract positions through a transaction called exchange-for-physicals (I’ll explain this another time). It is important to realize, however, that many parties holding COMEX gold and silver in registered form have no intention of making their holdings available for delivery. By this I mean that such parties are neither (1) holding a short futures position against the warehouse receipt nor (2) willing to sell their registered metal (warehouse receipts) to a party with a short futures position. Indeed, a substantial portion of those holding registered metal would have acquired the COMEX warehouse receipts by holding long futures positions for delivery. In other words, these registered stocks are held for investment and not for commercial purposes.
In comparison, the eligible category of COMEX warehouse bullion stocks generally refers to bullion held in the warehouses that meets the specifications of an acceptable COMEX bar (proper weight, size, purity and refiner) but does not have a COMEX warehouse receipt issued against it. For example, an investor might purchase several 1,000 oz. bars of silver from a dealer and then deliver the bars for allocated storage at a COMEX warehouse. This is a private arrangement and has nothing to do with the COMEX. Unless these bars are officially registered (the easiest way to do this is through the aforementioned exchange-for-physicals), they will remain in the eligible category until withdrawn from the warehouse by the investor. Thus, the appropriate way to treat eligible COMEX warehouse bullion stocks is that they represent metal that could potentially be registered at some point in the future but cannot presently be used to make delivery under a short futures contract.
We will follow this curious development which had not occured prior to silver entering its "parabolic" phase.
P.S. For those curious, Scotia Mocatta had a comparable "glitch" affecting its gold stocks, where 13% of its registered gold mozzied off to eligible status.