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June Platinum Club

A condensed and paraphrased excerpt from the Johnson Matthey PGM market report, May 2024, by Becky Berube

During 2020 – 2022, the historically high prices for palladium and rhodium motivated holders of Platinum Group Metals (PGMs) to sell into the market, including recyclers of scrap catalytic converters. Consumers of PGMs who typically bought metal “just-in-time,” beginning to fear supply disruption, purchased PGMs “just-in-case.” This created excess above-ground stock. The following things happened following this time which affected demand. PGM prices fell significantly. Fears about future supply were relieved and excess PGM inventory released. Lower mileage on vehicles during COVID, combined with higher interest rates, resulted in fewer vehicles sold. With less cars coming off the road, less vehicles and scrap catalytic converters entered the recycling stream. Demand for gasoline powered vehicles decreased further as hybrid and electric vehicles sales increased. Instead of mass-producing vehicles, auto manufacturers started producing vehicles on-demand. Price-driven decisions to substitute platinum for palladium once again in autocatalyst, and a reduction of rhodium in the use of glassmaking, further affected PGM demand.


The expected recovery in primary and secondary PGM supply, from mining and recycling, fell short in 2023 with platinum and palladium supply increasing slightly and rhodium supply decreasing. Although there were supply interruptions in South Africa due to maintenance and energy constraints, Russia flooded the market with sales into China. Secondary supply from automotive scrap fell 14% to a seven-year low. On the other hand, global gasoline vehicle output surged by 9% to almost 70 million units, raising PGM demand for the automotive sector by 8%. In 2023, demand for all three metals increased, while supply fell, resulting in significant deficits for all three.


If this is the case, why haven’t prices increased? First of all, platinum has been in surplus for years, with ample supply, and has remained in the $900 to $1,000 range for the past five years. Palladium and rhodium prices, on the other hand, we significantly affected by strong market liquidity and negative investor sentiment. Recessionary vibes, a strong dollar, and high interest rates added to the opportunity cost of holding non-interest bearing assets such as precious metals. The palladium price which had dipped more than 50%, from $1800 to $900, between January and December of 2023, was further weakened by a large speculative short position on NYMEX, and its end-of-year rally to $1200 was lost by January of 2024. As ‘self-sanctioning’ customers refused to buy Russian supply due to the war in Ukraine, Russia flooded the Chinese market with discounted PGMs. Rhodium having lost two-thirds of its value, from $1200 to $4000 by the end of 2023, was deeply affected by Chinese glassmaker sales who bought Russian PGMs below international market prices.


The reported outlook for 2024 is a continued shortfall of PGM supply, despite lower gasoline powered vehicle output and higher PGM recycling. Lower PGM prices put pressure on mining operations to be profitable and can cause cuts to capital spending, delays to projects, and even shaft closures. It is expected that gasoline powered vehicle output will fall by 4% which means lower demand for all three metals, hardly offset by a modest prediction of a 4% increase in recycling. The big unknown is if vehicle scrappage rates will increase or be further suppressed by a high financing costs, a tight used vehicle market, and severe cost-of-living pressures. Despite the supply deficits, the PGM markets were highly liquid, with low lease rates, and subdued prices. Palladium traded at a five-year low of $866 in February when it traded at a discount to platinum for the first time since 2018. Speculator sentiment is still negative for palladium. Platinum has traded sub-$1000 for the majority of the first quarter and rhodium has remained in the mid $4000s.


The PGMs are industrial metals. The outlook beyond 2024 is still strongest for platinum which has applications in the glass fiber and energy transition industries like PEM electrolysis and fuel cells. The outlook for palladium and rhodium is less positive, mainly because the recent higher price levels served as a deterrent for new applications. PGM producers are currently researching new applications.



Average PGM prices by the Decade (including 2024) according to Chat GPT


Platinum

· 1980s: Approximately $300 - $600 per ounce

· 1990s: Approximately $350 - $450 per ounce

· 2000s: Approximately $600 - $2,250 per ounce

· 2010s: Approximately $800 - $1,800 per ounce

· 2020s: Approximately $800 - $1,200 per ounce

· 2024: Approximately $928 per ounce


Palladium

· 1980s: Approximately $100 - $250 per ounce

· 1990s: Approximately $100 - $350 per ounce

· 2000s: Approximately $150 - $400 per ounce

· 2010s: Approximately $400 - $2,300 per ounce

· 2020s: Approximately $1,500 - $2,500 per ounce

· 2024: Approximately $997 per ounce


Rhodium

· 1980s: Approximately $1,000 - $3,000 per ounce

· 1990s: Approximately $300 - $2,000 per ounce

· 2000s: Approximately $500 - $10,000 per ounce

· 2010s: Approximately $1,000 - $3,000 per ounce

· 2020s: Approximately $5,000 - $20,000 per ounce

· 2024: Approximately $4,750 per ounce


For daily updates on the PGM markets, subscribe to our daily e-newsletter, the 60-Second Report, TEXT Daily to 844-713-PGMs (7467). You can also call us at 864-824-2003 or email us at sales@unitedcatalystcorporation.com.


Becky Berube has served the recycling community for over thirty years. Based in Greenville, South Carolina as President of United Catalyst Corporation, she writes a monthly educational column for the industry, and serves on several ARA and ReMa committees. She is a newly appointed Advisor on the US Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Critical Minerals.


She was a recipient of a 2023 South Carolina Women in Business Award and is a mentor in the Women in PGMs program. Additionally, Becky serves as an At-Large Director of the ReMa Southeast Board, Co-Chair of the IPMI Preventing Auto Catalyst Theft Committee, and is on the Executive Committee of the International Precious Metals Institute (IPMI), where she is a past President.


Becky (Temple) Berube | LinkedIn



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