The World Platinum Investment Council Ltd. (WPIC), an authority on the physical platinum investment market based in London, has brought out its sixth quarterly report appropriately entitled Platinum Quarterly Q4, 2015.
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We don’t mind saying it’s a must for anyone remotely connected with or interested in the platinum market. Packed within the 22 pages of the report — produced for the WPIC by independent research house SFA (Oxford) — is an analysis of supply, demand and market trends that, with this sixth edition, builds up an unparalleled level of granular detail on market trends for this most interesting of metals.
What Drives Platinum Demand?
Speaking with MetalMiner, WPIC Director of Research Trevor Raymond threw additional light on the dynamics driving supply and demand for platinum as it reacts to its multiple roles as an industrial, jewelry, investment and green pollution-reducing product.
Just about every authority would agree the platinum market has been in deficit for a number of years, for any other metal this alone would have been enough to support prices, but platinum’s role as an investment product has ironically contributed to it’s price weakness since 2011.
Many had expected the miners’ strike in South Africa to constrain supply so that prices would rise, but a combination of significant producer inventory and a cooling appetite, generally, for precious metals as an investment product led to a net outflow of metal from what Trevor Raymond refers to as liquid-vaulted holdings.
Although ownership of such inventory is understandably opaque, the WPIC probably produces the best estimates of inventory, suggesting above-ground stocks have fallen dramatically in recent years, partiallly fueled by a misplaced investor perception that platinum prices should move in tandem with the wider precious metal market. Also, partially, by the perception that demand is heavily linked to growth in China. Neither of assumption is wholly correct.
Quarterly Platinum Market Report: Existing Supply
By the report’s estimation, inventory has fallen from 4.14 million ounces just a few years ago to 2.315 million ounces today. With the prospect this year of further labor unrest in South Africa over wage negotiations, and the closure of a mine shaft due to fire supply, is expected to reduce output by some 225,000 ounces with only producer stocks able to make up the shortfall, such inventory is likely to dwindle further.
To understand just how crucial South Africa is to the platinum supply market, this graph from SFA (Oxford) illustrates what a crucial role this increasingly unstable source plays, in spite of recently rising supply from Zimbabwe and relatively stable by-product supply from Russia that is linked more to Norilsk Nickel‘s production than sole platinum demand. The world remains heavily reliant on South African supply and, as a result, it is expected to fall in 2016.
Source: SFA (Oxford)
Supply, though, has recovered well since the 2014 strikes, rising 8% overall last year to 7.825 million ounces, mainly on the back of recovering supply from South Africa. But while primary supply increased last year, secondary supply fell as declining metal prices reduced recycling of both jewelry and auto-catalysts. Read more