Silver futures edge lower as focus turns to Bernanke testimony

NEW YORK (July 16) Silver futures edged lower in rangebound trade on Tuesday, as investors await testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for further clues of when the central bank may slow or stop buying bonds.

On the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, silver futures for September delivery traded at USD19.79 a troy ounce during European morning trade, down 0.25% on the day.

Comex silver prices held in a range between USD19.66 a troy ounce, the daily low and a session high of USD19.93 a troy ounce.

Silver prices were likely to find support at USD18.98 a troy ounce, the low from July 10 and resistance at USD20.24, the high from July 11.

Market participants were anticipating Bernanke's testimony on monetary policy amid speculation over the timing of a possible reduction to the bank’s USD85 billion-a-month bond buying program.

Silver prices rallied 5.2% last week after Bernanke said the Fed will continue to maintain accommodative monetary policy for the foreseeable future.

Investors now looked ahead to the release of U.S. data on consumer price inflation and a report on industrial production later in the day.

Data on Monday showed that U.S. retail sales rose less-than-expected June, fuelling fears over a slowdown in the economic recovery.

The Commerce Department said U.S. retail sales rose 0.4% in June, slowing from a 0.5% increase in May and undershooting expectations for a 0.8% increase.

However, a separate report showed that the Empire State manufacturing index rose to a five-month high of 9.5 in July from 7.8 in June. Economists had forecast a reading of 5.0.

Any improvement in U.S. economic activity could scale back expectations for further easing, boosting the dollar and weighing on silver.

Silver prices are on track to post a loss of almost 33% on the year, amid speculation the Fed will start to unwind its bond purchasing program in the coming months.

Moves in the silver price this year have largely tracked shifting expectations as to whether the U.S. central bank would end its bond-buying program sooner-than-expected.