Silver Miners Still in a Tough Spot

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We have had earnings results from a handful of silver miners in the past few days, and the news has not been very good. After markets closed on Wednesday, Silver Wheaton Corp. (NYSE: SLW) reported revenues down 17% and net earnings down 20% from the same period a year ago. On Thursday, Pan American Silver Corp. (NASDAQ: PAAS) reported a net loss of $187.1 million ($1.23 per share), which included a noncash impairment charge of $185.2 million. On an adjusted basis, Pan American posted a loss of $0.07 per share. Analysts had been expecting Pan American to post earnings per share of $0.05.

The ball got rolling downhill last week, when Hecla Mining Co. (NYSE: HL) and Coeur Mining Co. (NYSE: CDE) reported weak results and picked up speed earlier this week on a weak report from First Majestic Silver Corp. (NYSE: AG).

From April through June, silver prices fell by about $10 an ounce, from around $28 to around $18. Since then the price has recovered to around $22 an ounce, but given the volatility of the devil’s metal, that recovery could stall quickly.

Silver production rose at Coeur, Hecla, First Majestic and Silver Wheaton. Only Pan American produced less in the second quarter. Lower prices killed profits. Pan American’s average price for silver in the second quarter was $22.68 an ounce, while Coeur received $22.86 an ounce. Like Hecla, Pan American has once again begun hedging a portion of its production, a reversal of the non-hedging strategy that all miners followed when prices were rising.

We have noted that the price moves in gold and silver have diverged recently, but when looking back at the past three months and charting the SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEMKT: GLD) and the iShares Silver Trust (NYSEMKT: SLV), both are down about 6.5%. And for the year-to-date, silver is down about 28% compared with a 20% loss for gold.

Shares of Pan American are down about 1% in premarket trading Thursday, at $13.65 in a 52-week range of $10.23 to $22.83.

Silver Wheaton shares are down about 1.1%, at $24.86 in a 52-week range of $17.75 to $41.30.

Coeur Mining’s shares are inactive, having closed on Wednesday at $15.22 in a 52-week range of $11.29 to $31.97.

Hecla’s shares are down 1.4%, at $3.50 in a 52-week range of $2.65 to $6.94.

Shares of First Majestic are down about 0.8%, at $14.29 in a 52-week range of $8.81 to $24.20.