NEW YORK American Eagle silver coin sales jumped on Monday after the U.S. Mint said it set the first weekly allocation of 2016 at 4 million ounces, roughly four times the amount rationed in the last five months of 2015, after a surge in demand.
More than half of the week's allocation sold on Monday, the first day of 2016 sales, the mint said, a sign that demand remains strong as spot silver prices hovered above a 6-1/2-year low of $13.60 per ounce hit in December.
The mint said nearly 2.76 million ounces of American Eagle silver bullion coins sold, about half of the 5.53 million ounces that sold in all of January 2015.
First-day sales of American Eagle gold bullion coins were also strong at 60,000 ounces, compared with the 81,000 ounces that sold in the entire month of January 2015, mint data showed.
On Monday, spot gold prices traded just below $1,100 an ounce, which is up about 5 percent from the near six-year-low of $1,045.85 reached in early December.
The mint ran out of American Eagle silver coins in July because of a "significant" increase in demand as spot silver prices fell to a six-year low.
The bullion coins are bought by authorized dealers who then sell to the general public at a premium, which changes according to supply and demand. The coins are viewed as a more affordable form of investment in physical bullion than the much larger bars.
Inventory was replenished in August and sales resumed. But the coins were on weekly allocations of roughly 1 million ounces for the rest of the year because of low supplies.
The U.S. Mint was not alone in limiting silver coin sales. The unexpected surge in demand put the global silver-coin market in an unprecedented supply squeeze, forcing other mints around the world to ration sales, while U.S. buyers had to look abroad for supplies.
(Reporting by Marcy Nicholson; Editing by Dan Grebler and Peter Cooney)