‘Mike Buetow Humor’

When the reader titles their email “Subject: Mike Buetow humor,” you know I’m opening that one first.

Reader TE writes:

Just going through the July 2016 issue when I came across two (well, three really) very interesting announcements.

On page 14 is a small blurb in the first column: “Canadian mining firm First Majestic Silver says a surge in smartphones and tablets is creating a silver shortage that could send prices up 775%.” Now go over to page 15, first column and you will see not one, but two different articles, one on smartphone sales slowing by 2.6% and the second that tablet shipments will decline by 9.6 % this year.

These opposing announcements seem to be right up your alley regarding the irony of our industry, and even perhaps our times. Both can’t be true, so now I am wondering if either is. It’s a big lol from my corner.

Well played, TE: I loved the note, and your observation absolutely appeals to my sense of irony!

I can possibly account for why both could be true. The silver market, like any commodity or precious metal index, changes daily and can be highly speculative. If you look at the Metals Index chart on pg. 15, the Handy and Harman Silver index jumped 15% between Apr. 4 and May 9 this year, then fell 6% by the end of May.

Second, smartphone growth appears to be declining in terms of its rate, but still rising overall. So growth this year will be 3% instead of 11%. I wouldn’t call that a “surge,” but who knows what goes through the minds of those good persons at First Majestic Silver. Also, overall handheld phones shipments are actually growing — probably in the high single digits this year. And it’s also possible that silver speculators are guessing there will be a spike in the second half because of new models that will overcome the lackluster first half sales.

As for the tablets, well, I don’t have a good rationale for that one. We have two in my house and both are used as expensive coasters.

All that said, I highly doubt the silver price will “surge” (or even grow) 775%. At least not because of electronics demand, anyway. After all, election years do play funny tricks on things.

But that’s a column for another day.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (pcea.net). He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

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