Listing the top 8 highest-rated silver stocks

If you’re ready to wade into the silver markets, start with the market leaders. Here are the Top 8 silver mining stocks with the highest analyst ratings. A rating of 1 is a “strong buy.” A rating of 5 is a “sell.”

Company Ticker Analyst rating YTD return
Silver Wheaton Corp. SLW 1.9 -28.8%
Mines Management, Inc. MGN 2 -40.4%
Coeur Mining Inc. CDE 2.6 -37%
Silver Standard Resources Inc. SSRI 2.6 48.6%
Endeavour Silver Corp. EXK 2.7 -18%
Fortuna Silver Mines Inc. FSM 2.7 -45.7%
First Majestic Silver Corp. AG 2.8 -23.3%
Hecla Mining Company HL 3 -17.5%

Just one of the stocks above is in positive territory for the year: Silver Standard Resources. And what a year its had leaping up by nearly 50 percent in value.

Here’s the same group of stocks listed by market cap:

Company Ticker Market Cap
Silver Wheaton Corp. SLW $5.5 billion
Hecla Mining Company HL $834 million
Silver Standard Resources Inc. SSRI $582 million
First Majestic Silver Corp. AG $439 million
Coeur Mining Inc. CDE $438 million
Fortuna Silver Mines Inc. FSM $305 million
Endeavour Silver Corp. EXK $173 million
Mines Management, Inc. MGN $8 million

What do analysts like about the top 3 stocks on the list?

1) Silver Wheaton Corp. Hands down, Silver Wheaton has my favorite business model in the precious metals industry. Known as a “silver steaming” company, SLW helps other companies fund the development of future mines in exchange for fixed-cost silver when those mines becomes operational. That’s how SLW currently has fixed costs for silver production of $4.36 per ounce.

2) Mines Management, Inc. This one makes me nervous. Mines Management has been in danger of getting de-listed by the NYSE after its share price faltered. Additionally, the company has posted losses over the past five fiscal years. Mines Management did submit a compliance plan to the NYSE, which was accepted. The company has until the end of 2016 to get compliant. It’ll likely need an infusion of cash to do so. The company’s primary asset – the Montanore silver-copper project located in northwestern Montana – holds 166 million ounces of silver per a Canadian National Instrument (NI) 43-101 that was completed in 2011.

3) Coeur Mining Inc. Analysts currently have an average price target of $6.46 on Coeur Mining. That’s 100 percent more than the stock’s current price of $3.22. Coeur did surprise analysts with a smaller-than-expected loss last quarter. The company lost $0.11 per share vs. the consensus estimate of -$0.22. Revenue hit $166.3 million vs. an estimate of $165. “On average, equities research analysts anticipate that Coeur Mining will post ($0.76) EPS for the current fiscal year” (source).

See related: I’m a bull on Silver Wheaton: Here are 3 reasons why.

Photo credit: JM Griffin and Michael LaTerz.

Top 10 best silver mining stocks over the past six months

Because silver producers have relatively stable fixed costs, a $1 per ounce rise in the price of silver means a multi-million dollar spike in profits. Here’s a look at the top 10 best-performing silver mining stocks over the past six months.

One of the quirks of the recent surge in silver prices is the relative underperformance of silver mining stocks. Shares in Silver Wheaton Corp. (NYSE:SLW) – the world’s largest silver streaming company – have fallen 2.5 percent over the past month while the price of silver has rocketed up 24 percent in the same span of time.

That makes little sense. Because silver producers have relatively stable fixed costs (outside of rising energy prices), a $1 per ounce rise in the price of silver means a multi-million dollar spike in profits. Silver Wheaton Corp. (NYSE:SLW), for instance, forecasts attributable production of 27 to 28 million ounces of silver this year. With silver up $10 over the past month alone, Silver Wheaton’s bottom line could balloon by $280 million this year; assuming, of course, silver prices don’t fall off precipitously by the end of the year.

If silver prices remain high, expect silver mining shares to follow them up. Here’s a look at the top 10 best-performing silver mining stocks over the past six months:

Great Panther Silver Limited (TSE:GPR)
+240 percent over the past six months: Great Panther owns and operates the Topia Mine and Guanajuato Mine, both of which are in Mexico. Production at the mines rose 15 percent year-over-year to 607,225 ounces during Q1. The company sells bullion direct to consumers via its online store.

First Majestic Silver Corp. (TSE:FR)
+228 percent over the past six months: First Majestic has increased its output nearly as fast as Great Panther. The company dug up 1,825,366 equivalent ounces of silver during Q1, a 13 percent increase over 2010. All told, First Majestic expects to produce 7.5 million ounces of silver this year. The company also sells silver bullion direct to consumers online.

Endeavour Silver Corp. (TSE:EDR)
+144 percent over the past six months: Of the top three silver stocks of the past six months, Endeavour has grown its production the fastest. EDR mined 900,133 ounces of silver during Q1, up 17 percent over 2010’s numbers. Gold production was also up 33 percent, pushing revenues up 95 percent in Q1.

Alexco Resource Corp. (AMEX:AXU)
+86.6 percent over the past six months: Alexco entered production on its first mine in January, and the company hopes to yield “a minimum 2.8 million ounces of silver production in 2011” (per AlexcoResource.com). The company’s also expanding its exploration efforts at its Keno Hill property in the Yukon.

Mag Silver Corp (AMEX:MVG)
+69.4 percent over the past six months: An exploration-stage company with rights to 100 square miles of prospective ground in Mexico, MVG got promising results from a prefeasibility study at its Juanicipio Mine, which could hold as much 46.5 ounces of silver per ton of ore (per SmallCapInvestor.com).

Five more silver mining stocks to watch

Metalline Mining Company (AMEX:MMG)
+62.8 percent over the past six months

Silvercorp Metals Inc. (NYSE:SVM)
+62.8 percent over the past six months

Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation (NYSE:CDE)
+62.7 percent over the past six months

Silver Wheaton Corp. (NYSE:SLW)
+61.5 percent over the past six months

Hecla Mining Company (NYSE:HL)
+41.2 percent over the past six months

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15 gold price predictions for 2011

A number of influential traders and executives have publicly weighed in with gold price forecasts for 2011. Here’s a recap of the more memorable predictions from 15 trading professionals and individuals.

A number of influential traders and executives have publicly weighed in with gold price forecasts for 2011. Here’s a recap of the more memorable predictions:

Chuck Jeannes: Goldcorp Inc.’s (NYSE:GG) CEO sees gold at $1,500 an ounce as “easily achievable,” and he could see the price eventually rising as high as $2,300 if and when inflation sets in (The Street)

Dennis Wheeler: Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation’s (NYSE:CDE) CEO “would not be surprised” if gold prices rose to $1,500-$1,600 an ounce in 2011 (Reuters)

Sean Boyd: Agnico-Eagle Mines Limited’s (NYSE:AEM) CEO argues gold at $1,600 an ounce in the next 12 months would “not be a stretch” (Reuters). “Gold will ultimately go above $2,000 and I think it’s going to go in steps so I could see $1,600 this year,” he tells The Street.

Mark Cutifani: The CEO of AngloGold Ashanti Limited (NYSE:AU) see gold range-bound between $1,300 and $1,500 an ounce in 2011 (The Street)

Rick Rule: The founder of Global Resource Investments, which was acquired by Sprott Inc. (TSE:SII), expects “some event-driven spike in metals prices.” “I have no earthly idea where gold will close, but to be a good sport and play the game, I’ll say $1,750,” he says (SeekingAlpha)

Aaron Regent: CEO of Barrick Gold Corporation (NYSE:ABX) tells The Street he believes the “forward curve would suggest a gold price in the $1,500 range” (The Street)

Ian McAvity: The founder of the Central Fund of Canada (CEF), Central Gold Trust (GTU), and Silver Bullion Trust (SBT.U) expects a “monetary panic” in the dollar or euro to push gold to $2,000-$2,400 per ounce this year or in 2012 (SeekingAlpha)

Mark Bristow: The CEO at Randgold Resources Ltd. (NASDAQ:GOLD) expected gold to rise as high as $1,500 an ounce (The Street)

Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS): The investment bank has set a gold price target of $1,512 an ounce for gold in 2011 (The Street)

Ross Norman: The co-founder of TheBullionDesk.com is looking for gold to trade between $1,350 and new all-time highs of $1,850 per ounce (SeekingAlpha)

The Street reader survey: Of the almost 6,000 people who have taken The Street’s gold poll, 47 percent believe gold prices will finish between $1,500 and $1,800 an ounce in 2011 (The Street)

James Turk: The founder and chairman of online precious metals vendor GoldMoney.com sees gold sprinting much higher “probably in the first half” of this year to $2,000 per ounce (SeekingAlpha)

Charles Oliver: The senior portfolio manager of the Sprott Gold and Precious Minerals Fund, Oliver sees currencies around the world continuing to plummet in 2011. He expects that will push gold up to $1,700+ by the end of the year (SeekingAlpha)

Adrian Ash: A researcher at BullionVault sees individual savers moving into gold bullion this year as negative real interest rates erode buying power. That could push gold 20 percent higher this year to $1,695 an ounce (SeekingAlpha)

Richard O’Brien: The president and CEO of Newmont Mining Corporation (NYSE:NEM) sees gold eventually rising to $1,750 an ounce by 2012 thanks to the protection the metal provides against inflation. In 2011, he sees gold trading between $1,350 and $1,500 an ounce (Reuters)

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Gold rockets up $14 per ounce on New York NYMEX

Typically, gold moves opposite the dollar, but both climbed in tandem yesterday signaling that the shortened trading week might be more treacherous than most investors might have imagined after the Dow climbed more than 4 percent last week.

Unease in financial markets around the world has pushed investors back into gold and bonds. Indeed, three-year treasury notes for the lowest price on record yesterday, as investors fear another Greece-style banking crisis in Europe.

Precious metals were the beneficiary yesterday with gold adding $14 to its 15 percent gain on the year. Popular gold stocks Hecla Mining Company (NYSE:HL) and Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation (NYSE:CDE) were both up more than 1 percent on a day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost more than 1 percent.

“You saw a little bit of asset allocation shift,” Charles Nedoss, a senior market strategist with Olympus Futures in Chicago, told the Wall Street Journal.

Typically, gold moves opposite the dollar, but both climbed in tandem yesterday signaling that the shortened trading week might be more treacherous than most investors might have imagined after the Dow climbed more than 4 percent last week.

Lackluster day for gold stocks despite powerful market rally

Irrationality in the markets leaves gold stocks in the dust while driving up just about every other sector. The perfect short environment seems like it’s just around the corner.

The dollar dropped an average of roughly 1 percent against the Pound and the Euro. The Dow rallied 208 points (1.99 percent), and the FTSE was up 2.65 percent. What’s going on with gold? Despite an early surge on the New York NYMEX, the yellow metal spot price and corresponding stocks couldn’t keep pace with other equities. Here’s a handful of the most obvious underperformers in gold stocks:

  • Hecla Mining Company (NYSE:HL), +1.01 percent
  • Coeur d’Alene Mines Corporation (NYSE:CDE), +0.46 percent
  • Richmont Mines Inc. (AMEX:RIC), +2.12 percent
  • DRDGOLD Ltd. (NASDAQ:DROOY), +1.21 percent
  • Allied Nevada Gold Corp. (AMEX:ANV), +0.75 percent

The best performers were the international majors who are more tied to basic materials. Among them:

  • Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (NYSE:FCX), +4.56 percent
  • Rio Tinto (NYSE:RTP), +5.26 percent

It appears better-than-expected earnings have created a micro-bubble, that could present some excellent short opportunities – particularly in the technology and basic materials stocks. In two weeks, earnings will taper off, and I expect reality to start setting in.

The ECRI, for instance, is pointing to a recession. Alan Greenspan’s calling for a double dip, and I’m try to free up capital and move into dividend stocks after my shorts blew up in my face today. I want to short at the top, and I think we’ll have that opportunity in the next two weeks – no matter what sector you’re in.