Japan's Quake Creates PGM Buying Opportunity


"Automaker demand crash slices platinum and palladium prices 10%."

Japan's earthquake has opened a brief window of opportunity for consumers and investors to stock up on platinum and palladium after demand from automakers crashed in the wake of the catastrophe, slicing as much as 10% off prices.

The market has already started to recover as weaker demand from Japan is quickly being offset as consumers' ramp-up component output in other countries.

The nation's industrial demand for platinum was around 745,000 ounces, Johnson Matthey said in a recent report, and demand for palladium was 1.37 million ounces in 2010. Autocatalysts account for more than half of that.

Platinum group metals are used to make catalytic converters to cut vehicle emissions, electronics and pressure-sensitive adhesive on Post-it notes.

"The Japan quake impact is bearish for the PGM markets in the near term, but bullish over the long term," said Naohiro Niimura, a partner at Tokyo-based research and consulting firm Market Risk Advisory Co.

"The global economy is not as vulnerable and there will be companies willing to supply parts that Japan can't, which will likely also prompt Japanese firms to strive for an early recovery in production," he said.

"So, I am keeping a bullish outlook on PGMs unchanged."

Spot platinum sank to $1,654 an ounce on March 17, losing 8% from before the massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11. It traded at $1,743.50 by 0652 GMT, still below the closing price of $1,762 on March 10. Spot palladium slid over 10% to a three-month low of $684.50 in the week following the quake, before recovering to $748 on Friday.

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