The boost that the Automotive MMI recently felt from platinum and palladium continues as automotive catalyst prices continued to post strong increases, bolstering our sub-index to a 3% increase.
Yet, end user automotive sales are starting to show signs of plateauing after years of increases. Sales for the top three automakers selling in the U.S. increased, but slipped off their record pace in July as the strong growth rate that defined the past six years slowed to a crawl.
Declines at General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. overshadowed increases by smaller rivals, including Nissan Motor Co. and Honda Motor Co. Sales were on pace to set another record this year but that’s in serious doubt after this report.
Analysts say sales incentives and fleet sales need to play a bigger role in the market to get back on that record pace. Overall sales increased modestly in July, rising 0.7% to 1.52 million, according to research firm Autodata Corp., translating to a seasonally adjusted annualized selling pace of 17.9 million.
While higher than the prior July, the adjusted sales pace has leveled off compared with the sizable year-over-year increases from 2015’s final six months, which drove the U.S. light-vehicle market last year to its first record in a decade and a half.
Meanwhile, prices of automotive metals are still being buoyed by the bull run in precious metals. Catalysts are no exception and platinum and palladium prices posted strong increases while offsetting losses by other automotive metals, such as hot-dipped galvanized steel. With no sign of an increase in interest rates from the Federal Reserve anytime soon, expect the calalyst metals — and gold and silver — to continue increasing.
Actual Automotive Metal Prices
U.S. Hot-dipped galvanized steel fell to $825 a short ton this month from $832/st in July, a drop of 1%. U.S. Platinum bars jumped to $1,147 per ounce this month from $1021/ounce in July, a Herculean leap of 12.3%. U.S. Platinum bars jumped, too, from $599/ounce in July to $709/ounce this month, an increase of 18.3%.