The silver market saw record demand in 2015, with the jewelry, coin and bar, and photovoltaic sectors posting new highs, helping to boost total silver demand to 1.17 billion ounces last year. Overall silver supply to the market was lower, led by the continued weakness in silver scrap sales.
Last year’s supply and demand scenario led to the third successive annual silver market deficit, reaching 129.8 million ounces (Moz), more than 60 percent larger than 2014 and the third largest on record. These findings, and other components of the silver market, are discussed in World Silver Survey 2016, released today by the Silver Institute and produced on its behalf by the GFMS Team at Thomson Reuters (GFMS).
Globally, silver jewelry fabrication increased for the third consecutive year to post a fresh high at 226.5 Moz. This increase was largely achieved on the back of an impressive 16 percent rise from both India and Thailand, while North America posted a 5 percent annual increase. These gains were partially offset by a sizable contraction in Chinese jewelry offtake. Total silverware fabrication enjoyed its third successive annual rise to an estimated 62.9 Moz, a ten-year high.
The largest component of physical silver demand, industrial applications, which accounted for 50 percent of total physical silver demand last year, was 4 percent lower, totaling 588.7 Moz. This drop was largely due to weaker fabrication demand in developing countries and a stagnant global economy. On a regional basis, modest increases in industrial demand were posted in the United States and Japan, the second and third largest sources of industrial demand, respectively.
Electrical and electronics use declined by 10 percent last year to 246.7 Moz, due to slower economic growth in developing countries and the continued weakness in computer sales. There were several highlights within the industrial segment. Silver demand for photovoltaic applications rose 23 percent in 2015 to 77.6 Moz, marking the second consecutive year of increases in this sector, driven by strong growth in Chinese solar panel installations.
Silver demand for ethylene oxide (EO) grew an impressive 103 percent to 10.2 Moz. GFMS estimates that 137.5 Moz of silver resided in EO plants around the world at year-end 2015, equivalent to 16 percent of last year’s silver mine production. Silver’s use in brazing alloys and solders fell by 5.0 Moz and photography demand slid by 4 percent last year.