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April 16 (Reuters) - Silver stockpiles in Comex-monitored warehouses rose to their highest level in at least 10 years, showing near-term supply of the metal is plentiful as mine output holds at record levels and the global economic recovery struggles for traction.
The U.S silver stocks held at the five exchange-approved depositories stood at 141.59 million ounces on Friday, the highest since Reuters data first compiled in 2002. They were up from 140.6 million ounces the previous day and 102.65 million ounces a year ago.
That figure reflects both registered stocks - material covered by an ownership title - and eligible stocks at warehouses monitored by Comex.
A spokesman at U.S. exchange operator CME Group, which owns COMEX, said the all-time high for COMEX silver stocks was 284.28 million ounces on March 16, 1992.
“When you are seeing people delivering into Comex, it is typically because they have nothing better to do with the metal,” Mitsui Precious Metals analyst David Jollie said.
“Generally if you are seeing Comex stocks building, you would say that means that premiums are not particularly high anywhere, and that means that (global) demand is low.”
The rise is not reflected in silver prices, however, suggesting a fluid relationship between stocks and spot prices. Silver prices have risen 13 percent so far in 2012, while inventories have increased by more than 20 percent.
Stocks fell to their lowest in nearly a decade at 97.86 million ounces last June, shortly after prices crashed spectacularly from record highs near $50 an ounce, shedding a third of their value in just six sessions.
They have since ground steadily higher. Stocks are currently 28 percent above their levels last April when silver prices hit record highs.
HSBC analyst James Steel said the rise is partly symptomatic of increased mine output, which metals consultancy GFMS estimates will have reached another record high last year near 770 million ounces.
“Industrial demand is not poor by any means, particularly for electronics, but it has been matched by an increase in production,” Steel said. “It is more natural for that to go into Comex, because most (silver) is produced in the Americas.” (Reporting by Jan Harvey; Editing by Veronica Brown, Jane Baird, Alden Bentley and Bob Burgdorfer)