Silver Bars
Silver slides on lower industrial demand and speculative calls following ECB decision. Reuters

Precious metals headed lower on Thursday (20 October), with silver futures witnessing a heavy decline on speculative trades and lower industrial demand after the European Central Bank decided to hold its benchmark interest rate at 0.0% and extend its monthly €80bn (£71.7bn) asset purchase programme until the end of March 2017.

With the bank also hinting at possible stimulus action in December, Comex silver for December delivery was down 0.84% or 15 cents to $17.52 an ounce at 4.20pm BST.

Analysts at Sucden Financial noted that although industrial demand is the largest contributor to total silver consumption at 54%, monetary (investment and speculative) demand has been the largest driver of silver prices in 2016 due to its volatility.

"Additionally, while industrial demand for silver is set to fall further in the coming months on increased thrifting after falling 4% in 2015, jewellery demand could surprise on the upside if prices fall due to tactical buying on the dips. Hence, we expect the fourth quarter of 2016 to be challenging for silver but, like gold, its uptrend should not be in danger," they wrote in a note to clients.

Elsewhere, the Comex gold futures contract for December delivery was down 0.24% or $3.00 to $1,266.90 an ounce, well shy of $1,300-plus levels seen last month, while spot platinum was down 1.19% or $11.38 at $932.22 an ounce.

Away from precious metals, oil benchmarks saw heavy selloffs, retreating from 15-month highs seen overnight, as traders indulged in profit-taking.

At 4:37pm BST, the WTI front month futures contract was down 1.94% or $1.00 to $50.60 per barrel, while Brent was 2.26% or $1.19 lower at $51.48 per barrel, having hit an intraday peak of $53.14 on Wednesday.

Analysts at Vienna-based JBC Energy said that despite the short-term picture being bullish, the longer term outlook for oil remains bearish. "Expectations are seemingly being stoked on a daily basis, but they cannot be sustained without tangible Opec action, by which we mean a cut of at least 1 million barrels per day.

"Moreover, the impact of current high prices on US shale has not been fully factored in yet, while it appears as if further production has been forward hedged indicating supply gains even in the event of renewed price pressure."

Opec agreed to limit its production to a range of 32.5m to 33m bpd on 28 September, but will only spell out the nature of the cuts on 30 November.