Is this why the call it the devil's metal? Outcome of CFTC silver price rigging probe murkier than ever

On Monday conflicting reports about the outcome of a four-year old probe into possible price manipulation of silver left investors perplexed about the future trading direction of the precious metal.

First the FT reported that the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission has dropped the investigation that began in September 2008 over a lack of evidence.

That claim was later refuted by one of the CFTC commissioners Bart Chilton, who told Silver Doctors that the "report related to silver is not only premature, but inaccurate in several respects".

Chilton has in the past gone on record saying that there had been “fraudulent efforts” to “deviously control” the price of silver.

Silver was trading up 3c late on Monday in New York at $27.84 after a typically volatile session. The metal is down almost 25% from a high hit in February this year of $36.92.

Silver's wild price fluctuations compared to other precious metals is acting as a deterrence for investors according to market studies and silver had an especially torrid year in 2011.

During the first four months shot up just shy of 60% to reach a 30-year high of $49.50 an ounce at the end of April. It then staged a spectacular collapse and by May 5 was back under $35 an ounce. A similar pattern was followed at the end of September with the silver price plummeting from $39.73 an ounce to $30.14 or 24% in just three days.

This volatility is why traders often refer to it as the 'devil's metal'.

JPMorgan has been at the centre of allegations which were supported by more than 100,000 documents before the CFTC.

In April Blythe Masters, in charge of global commodities for the investment bank, defended her employer's business model on CNBC:

"We store significant amounts of commodities, for instance silver, on behalf of customers. We operate vaults in New York City, in Singapore and in London. Often when customers have that metal stored in our facilities they hedge it on a forward basis through JPMorgan, which in turn hedges in the commodities market," she said.

"If you see only the hedges and our activity in the futures market but you aren't aware of the underlying client position that we're hedging, then it would suggest inaccurately that we're running a large directional position," she added. "In fact that's not the case at all. We have offsetting positions. We have no stake in whether prices rise or decline."

JPMorgan earned $2.8 billion from trading in the commodities markets in 2011 and has been in the news recently after its London-based global chairman for capital markets resigned following a fine for market abuse.

Ian Hannam, aka ‘the king of mining M&A’ is appealing the decision that centred on charges that he passed on confidential information about a client, Heritage Oil, to a potential acquirer in Kurdistan.