The price of platinum, the precious metal used to make anti-pollution equipment for vehicles, is in a slump due to the global economic downturn, but it's especially bad in Europe where platinum demand is greatest. Nevertheless, analysts are bullish, believing the price will rise in the latter half of the year and into the next.
According to a Reuters poll this week, the ongoing euro zone debt crisis will put a damper on the price of the metal to average $1,572 in 2012, $1,747.5 in 2013. But this forecast is a downward revision from three months ago, suggesting the market is becoming more cautious if not bearish.
Nineteen analysts polled by the agency said the third-quarter price would end at $1,550 and $1,625 in the fourth.
Platinum for October delivery settled at $1,422.8, down 0.4 percent, in Friday trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
Both platinum and palladium have been hit hard by the European crisis and the steep downturn in the demand for cars.
The biggest effect of this rut has been felt in South Africa, from where about 80 percent of the world's platinum is sourced. The price slump has led to mine closures, layoffs and one major strike.
High-cost producers are currently losing money on an operating-cost basis and the pressure on the industry can already be seen by some mine closures in South Africa, Standard Chartered analyst Dan Smith, who expects platinum to average $1,665.00 in 2012, told Reuters.
Anglo American plc (LON: AAL), which supplies 40 percent of the world's platinum, is reeling from the slump. Its first half profits fell by over 75 percent this year. The company will release its quarterly earnings report on Monday.
The London-based mining company announced on Wednesday it reinstated Chris Griffith as head of its platinum unit in an effort to stop the hemorrhaging. Griffith had previous headed the unit before he was moved in May 2008 to head Kumba Iron Ore Ltd.
He's the guy who's been parachuted in, Dominic O'Kane, an analyst at London-based Liberum Capital told Bloomberg on Thursday.
High on Griffith's to-do list: carefully facing a popular tide in South Africa to nationalize the country's mining industry.
Key to the rebound in platinum will be Europe's market for diesel-driven vehicles, which are more fuel efficient but also require more platinum or palladium for their catalytic converters, the anti-pollution gear that all vehicles are made with. Europe is the world's largest market for diesel engines. But the market is in a deep slump with little relief in sight. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association, June's new passenger car registrations in the 27-member European Union were down 2.8 percent to 1.2 million cars, the third monthly decline.