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Feb 2, 2021

Silver traders ask who wrote Reddit posts to spark a run-up

The surge in the price of silver was premature: TD Securities commodity head

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After a surge in silver futures to the highest in almost eight years, traders are still trying to solve a mystery: Who penned the Reddit posts that ignited this staggering run-up in prices -- and why were they taken down?

The two posts on Reddit that prompted investors to pile into the iShares Silver Trust, known as SLV for short, were put up last week by the user jjalaj30. The user appears to have created the account nine months ago and has only written in the WallStreetBets forum twice -- after investors on the board sent GameStop Corp.’s shares soaring. The posts have since been removed.

Some Reddit users are speculating as to whether the user behind them was just trying to game the markets. Others wondered whether the poster could’ve been part of a pump-and-dump scheme -- or working on behalf of some hedge funds that might have infiltrated the now-famous WallStreetBets forum. Plenty still have come to the author’s defense, saying they’re none of the above.

Further fueling speculation was a report by CBS that moderators of the online forum, responsible for sending shares of GameStop Corp. and other companies soaring, had detected a significant amount of recent “bot activity.” Citing a spokesperson for the group, CBS said moderators were doing their best to remove the computer-generated posts.

Replying to the original Reddit thread on silver, one user wrote: “BAN NEW ACCOUNT, attempt of pump and dump.” Another user called the original poster a “hedge fund shill.” Others pointed to a separate Reddit thread suggesting hedge funds stood to gain the most from silver’s surge.

“I think the Reddit legion did spark this unusual rally, but I am a little dubious about the more intricate conspiracy theories,” said Tai Wong, director of metals trading at BMO Capital Markets.

When asked if the posts were part of a hedge fund pump-and-dump scheme, Wong said “it’s a convenient narrative that shows how diabolical the speculators and hedge funds are, but it would be a risky move that would open an operator to charges of market manipulation -- a highly undesirable outcome.”

Silver comments began dominating the Reddit board on Wednesday, and spot silver and the iShares Silver Trust both soared after. Silver futures broke past US$30 an ounce on Monday as the retail investor frenzy swept into other markets, before sliding as much as 3.2 per cent on Tuesday.