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Platinum prices climb on Zim worries
14/02/2013 00:00:00
by wsj.com
 
Zimplats land seizure ... Obert Mpofu
 
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PALLADIUM futures settled at a 17-month high in midweek, while platinum marched higher, as traders continued to sift through reports of a potential supply disruption in Zimbabwe.

Palladium for March delivery, the most active contract, rose 65 cents, or 0.1%, to settle at $772.05 a troy ounce on the New York Mercantile Exchange. This was the highest settlement price since September 2011.

The most actively traded platinum contract, for April delivery, rose $12.50, or 0.7%, to settle at $1,729.70 a troy ounce on the Nymex. This is the highest settlement price since Feb. 6, when platinum touched its 2013 high of $1,736.50 a troy ounce.

Prices of both platinum group metals, or PGMs, continued to draw strength from news that the Zimbabwean government will seize nearly 28 hectares of land leased by platinum miner Zimplats Holdings Ltd. (ZIM.AU).

The measures are aimed at re-allocating assets to local businesses, but some analysts say the moves could disrupt production of platinum group metals, or PGMs, which includes platinum, palladium and rhodium.

"While PGM production from Zimbabwe pales in comparison to South Africa, it nonetheless reflects the tensions PGM miners face operating in the Southern African region," said James Steel, precious-metals analyst with HSBC. He added that prices of platinum and palladium are likely to move higher as a result.

Platinum and palladium prices have soared more than 10% so far this year, amid fears that mine closures in top supplier South Africa will lead to a shortage.

Platinum and palladium are mostly used to make car exhaust filters, known as catalytic converters.

Zimbabwe's platinum output puts it in third place, behind world leader South Africa, and second-place Russia according to Johnson Matthey, a specialty chemicals company which makes platinum and palladium coatings for the auto industry.



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