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Global silver prices reached a record annual average of $35.12 per troy ounce in 2011, as smaller supplies offset weaker demand stemming from Europe's debt crisis.
Prices climbed amid a "major" decline in government silver sales, as well as "considerably lower" net producer hedging, The Silver Institute said in a recent report. Total supplies shrank 3.2%, to about 1.041 billion troy ounces.
During the fourth quarter, there was a "largely unexpected slump in industrial demand" that outweighed strong first half gains, the Silver Institute said. "The weakness seen late in 2011 was chiefly the result of industrial end-users slashing orders due to fears over the fallout from the Eurozone's sovereign debt crisis," according to the report.