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(Silver prices article updated with additional commentary and information.)
NEW YORK (
TheStreet ) --
Silver prices hit $40 an ounce. This was the bullish signal many traders were waiting for and price targets now range from $45 to $50 for 2011. Voracious investment demand and turmoil in the Middle East-North Africa region have been pivotal to silver's pop, but don't tell the whole story.
Silver prices have a reputation of being manipulated, volatile and less liquid. Silver hit a record high of $50 an ounce in 1980 after the famous (or infamous) Hunt brothers bought the metal aggressively for seven years -- at one time owning more than 200 million ounces of silver.
The silver bubble burst soon thereafter shedding 50% of its value almost immediately, and over the last 30 years the metal has traded as low as $4 and as high as $36.74 an ounce.
Along with gold, silver prices are at the mercy of investment demand, safe-haven buying, inflation fears, momentum trading and price manipulation. Silver prices are also cheaper than gold offering cash strapped buyers a cheaper safe haven alternative. But the one thing that silver prices have going for them that gold doesn't are oodles of industrial demand.
Indeed, silver can be found in a plethora of products, from iPads to cars to solar panels, making it the perfect metal for those wanting a hedge against currency debasement as well as exposure to a global economic recovery.
David Morgan, founder of Silver-Investor.com, says he could see silver prices as high as $45 in 2011 "and if things get really crazy we could go beyond that."
Silver is also at the mercy of stocks. When equities plummet, investors are often forced to sell silver for cash, but any significant dip can trigger a
wave of buying as investors purchase silver at "cheaper" prices, resulting in a strong tug of war. Because fewer people
own silver than gold, the market is smaller, which results in violent price action.
Here are five fundamental factors that will contribute to silver's strong price moves in 2011 and why many analysts think silver's bubble is far from bursting.