Platinum prices just finished plunging more than 22 percent from their late August level and the bottom has still not come into view.
Historically, platinum has been at the pinnacle of the precious metals, attractive to upscale jewelry shoppers who want something classier than gold and essential for such industrial uses as catalytic converters used inthe exhaust systems of internal combustion engines.
But that has not been the case lately. On Aug. 22 platinum's spot price was $1,913.50; on Oct. 5 it was $1,479.50. Gold, meanwhile, had an Aug. 22 spot price of $1,908.89 and an Oct. 5 price of $1,642.50.
In other words, besides plunging $434 in the last six weeks platinum's price went from a premium to gold's price to being 86 percent of gold's price.
Many analysts aren't looking for an end to the freefall.
Platinum's year-to-date performance is now deep in the red, with a loss of 19 percent, UBS strategist Edel Tully said Thursday in a client note.
Deteriorating economic prospects and shaky risk appetite mean that few investors are currently looking at platinum as a potential buy even after its steep correction -- instead, more are fearful that the downside isn't yet over.
Challenges keep coming. On Tuesday the CME Group, the biggest operator of U.S. futures exchanges, raised margins on platinum by about 29 percent. The move came after a huge drop when platinum fell to its lowest level since July 2010.
Meanwhile, outflows of platinum by exchange-traded products this month is already 14,000 ounces. Investors are not happy.
But there may be some hope, at least if history is any indication. Kevin Norrish, an analyst with Barclays Capital, says that if the economy is heading into a downturn as it did in 2008 and platinum behaves as it did in the 2008 recession, things may not be as grim as they seem.
Precious metals was the weakest sector in the first half of 2008, with platinum and palladium the weakest of all the commodities examined: their average prices in September 2008 represented declines of 40 percent to 50 percent over the prior three months and were only about half of their 12-month trailing average, he wrote recently.
It appears that by getting their price falls in early, precious metals had much less to lose during the most intense market turmoil and were even able to register modest gains during such an unstable period.
In early afternoon trading Thursday, platinum for January 2012 delivery was up $25.80 to $1,508.70, a 92 percent premium to the comparable price of gold.