#5. Demand for Auto Catalysts Cannot Be Met
The greatest use of PGMs is in auto catalysts, which help reduce pollution. Platinum has long been the primary metal used for this purpose and has no widely used substitute—except palladium.
But that market is already upside down.
Palladium is cheaper than platinum, but replacing platinum with palladium requires some retooling and, on a large scale, would worsen the supply deficit.
As for platinum (which does work better than palladium in higher-temperature diesel engines), auto parts manufacturers are expected to use more of it than is mined this year, for the third straight year.
Some investors may shy away from PGMs because they believe demand will decline if the economy enters a recession. That could happen, but tighter emissions controls and increasing car sales in Asia could negate the effects of declining sales in weakening Western economies.
For example, China is now the world’s top auto-producing country. According to IHS Global, auto sales in China are projected to grow 5% annually over the next three years. PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts that sales of automobiles and light trucks in China will double by 2019. That will take a lot of catalytic converters. This trend largely applies to other Asian countries as well. It’s important to think globally when considering demand.
The key, however, is that supply is likely to fall much further than demand.
#6. Investment Demand Has Erupted
Investment demand for platinum rose 9.1% last year. The increase comes largely from the new South African ETF, NewPlat. At the end of April, all platinum ETFs held nearly 89,000 ounces—a huge amount when you considerit was zero as recently as 2007.
Palladium investment fell 84% last year—but demand is up sharply year-to-date due to the launch of two South African palladium ETFs, pushing global palladium holdings to record levels. And like platinum, there was no investment demand for palladium seven years ago.
Growing investment demand adds to the deficit of these metals.