PGMs Slide as Japan's Auto Production Suspended

Source:

"Japan's devastating quake has platinum group metals under sharp pressure."

A shuttering of Japanese auto plants following Friday's magnitude 8.9 earthquake, 230 miles northeast of Tokyo, left platinum group metals under sharp pressure Monday.

The tragedy also will mean less buying of platinum jewelry in the nation, analysts said.

Several analysts blamed PGM's declines largely on the auto-plant shutdowns. The main industrial use for the metals is catalytic converters in motor vehicles.

Japanese auto manufacturers collectively have idled most of their domestic plants to gauge damage from the earthquake and also address procurement of parts for assembly lines. Many were located in areas hard hit by the earthquake and tsunami. But plants in other areas were also closed, according to reports, to allow workers to contact family members, due to transportation disruptions and to wait for parts suppliers to restart operations.

Pressure is also coming from jewelry prospects.

"Japan is the second-largest platinum-jewelry market," said Jim Steel, analyst with HSBC. "I think it's fair to say that expenditures on luxury items, such as jewelry, are likely to be hit. . .The jewelry component will not bounce back quickly."

Toyota has suspended production at all 12 of its Japanese plants, including subsidiaries, for at least the next couple of days. Nissan is suspending output at six plants, while Honda is closing four of its five plants in the country.

Japan accounts for some 15% of global platinum demand and 16% of global palladium consumption. Japan's accounts for 7% of global auto catalyst demand and palladium makes up 8%, Barclays said.

The earthquake in Japan comes on the heels of disappointing news about Chinese car sales last week.

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