ETF investors continue to display optimism. Holdings have increased for seven weeks, and the iShares Silver Trust (ARCA:SLV) has seen its holdings jump 572 metric tons. That is the biggest increase since December 2007, and Bloomberg attributed the surge to investors seeking an alternative to gold.Based on a median of 49 estimates from analysts, traders and investors, Bloomberg also said silver will rise as much as 28 percent, to $40.25, this year. To add a bit more sweetness to the week, the London Bullion Market Association released its 2013 forecast, which predicts that the average silver price will gain 6.6 percent this year. Gold's average price is expected to rise only 5.1 percent in 2013, meaning that silver is expected to outperform its yellow peer just as it did in 2012. The close Silver's gains on Wednesday leveled the technical playing field between the bears and the bulls, while Thursday's gains gave silver bulls a slight advantage. After hitting a four-week high, March silver on the COMEX ended the US day session up $0.23 at $31.77, near the high of the session. Thursday's final New York spot price was $31.73, a $0.24 gain. Company news Southern Silver Exploration (TSXV:SSV) plans to issue up to 15,000,000 units in a non-brokered private placement to raise $750,000. Proceeds from the offering will be used for exploration and property maintenance expenses on the Minas de Ameca project in Mexico and the Dragoon and Oro projects in the US. The company also announced that Freeport-McMoRan Exploration, a subsidiary of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold (NYSE:FCX), will begin an exploration program at the Cerro Las Minitas project in Mexico, where it has the option to earn a 70-percent interest. Sunset Cove Mining (TSXV:SSM) is also proceeding with a non-brokered private placement for up $1 million comprised of over 14,285,714 units. The company plans to use the capital for it operations in Peru and Canada.
Apogee Silver (TSXV:APE) received $609,000 from the sale of lead-zinc and zinc-silver concentrates to Consorcio Minero, a subsidiary of Trafigura Group. This payment represents about 85 percent of the gross proceeds for the delivery of the concentrates, and the company said it expects the balance early this year after a final analysis of the concentrates."Another major milestone for Apogee has been achieved with the production of salable concentrate at a commercial scale from the Pulacayo deposit. On the eve of producing a feasibility study for a robust, commercial scale mine at Pulacayo, the Company has demonstrated its ability to successfully conduct trial mining and processing operations in partnership with the Pulacayo Cooperative, and with the support of local communities and other stakeholders," said CEO Neil Ringdahl. The company also announced positive feasibility study results for Pulacayo, which the company said confirm the technical and financial viability of a silver-lead-zinc mine and base metals concentrator. Securities Disclosure: I, Michelle Smith, do not hold equity interest in any companies mentioned in this article. String of Gains Nudges Silver Toward Bull Camp from Silver Investing News