Platinum: Better than Gold?

04/17/2017 2:50 am EST

Focus: COMMODITIES

Luke Burgess

Editor, Energy and Capital

The price of gold has moved considerably higher over the past few weeks. And while the yellow metal is still very well positioned to continue gaining, platinum could be set for even larger growth, suggests Luke Burgess, editor of Energy & Capital.

Simply put, platinum has never been so undervalued — ever. At just over $950 an ounce, platinum is trading at a near all-time discount to gold.

Meanwhile, the market is faced with serious platinum supply deficits that almost promise to send prices much higher from here. And for the few investors who recognize the opportunity and take action, large gains seem quite likely.

The World Platinum Investment Council reports that 2017 will be the sixth consecutive year that global platinum demand will outstrip supply! And it forecasts a continually widening supply deficit through 2020.

These supply deficits are simply the result of platinum's scarcity. It's a very rare metal. Platinum is about 20x rarer than gold. Only about 250 metric tons of platinum is produced annually worldwide. Compare that to the 2,800 tonnes of gold mined globally every year.

To add to the supply problem, the majority of the world's platinum resources are highly concentrated in geopolitically unstable regions. Approximately 80% of all platinum production is based in just two countries: South Africa and Russia.

And, unlike gold, platinum is an important industrial metal. More than 60% of the world's platinum demand is industrial. Platinum is a key material for the production of catalytic converters, which have been a standard and regulated part of vehicles since the 1970s.

As a result of all this, platinum prices have spent most of the past 45 years trading at a premium to gold. In fact, platinum used to be called the “rich man's gold.” But now, platinum trades at a near historic discount to gold.

The most direct way to get investment exposure to platinum is by owning the physical bullion, such as the American Platinum Eagle. But the premiums for physical platinum bullion are currently very high.

Moreover, liquidity can be an issue with a physical platinum investment product. Physical platinum is easy to buy, but it's not always so easy to sell. So I generally recommend staying away from owning very much physical platinum.

A better way to invest in platinum is through ETFS Physical Platinum Shares (PPLT). However, this ETF is not designed for long-term ownership. PPLT is a trading tool. Right now, I think PPLT is a great buy for a small, short-term gain.

But for more leverage over the long term, investors need to look to shares of the companies that produce the metal. Among the largest publicly traded platinum producers are Anglo American Platinum ADR (ANGPY) and Impala Platinum Holdings ADR (IMPUY).

With a widening global supply deficit and historic price divergence between it and gold, platinum currently offers a unique investment opportunity that will reward the few investors who recognize it.

At the end of the day, large producers such as Anglo and Impala are the most appropriate investments for most investors looking for long-term exposure to platinum.

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