Heady times for platinum and palladium

Demand for the two metals is growing while mining supply declines.

By Jim J. Jubak May 21, 2013 3:55PM

Platinum necklace, high angle view, black background © DAJ, amana images, Getty ImagesThe dust has settled at Stillwater Mining (SWC) with the election of four new board members backed by the Clinton Group -- an activist investor that wants the company to focus on the profitability of its U.S. platinum and palladium mines, and cut back or end plans to expand into copper mining after a 2011 acquisition of copper reserves in Argentina.

That removes a major distraction hanging over the company’ stock and should leave the shares free to reflect Stillwater’s unique position as the only U.S. producer of platinum and palladium -- at a time when mines in South Africa are cutting production due to strikes. (Stillwater Mining is a member of my Jubak’s Picks portfolio.)

Palladium and platinum are two of the very few commodities that remain in a supply deficit in 2013 and that are likely, Barclays projects, to remain in deficit in 2014. Because of strikes in South Africa, global platinum production fell 10% in 2013 and palladium production fell 11%.

And unlike gold, where a bare 10% of consumption goes for industrial production, 60% of platinum consumption and 91% of palladium consumption goes to industrial production.

That’s been especially good for palladium, as demand rose 16% to a record 9.9 million ounces in 2013, as the global auto industry continued a recovery. (At least outside of Europe.) Palladium and platinum are key ingredients in automobile catalytic converters.

You can see the platinum/palladium story very quickly by comparing the performance of ETFs for those metals with that of a gold ETF. While a gold ETF such as the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) is down 16.6% year to date and down 12.57% over the last year, the ETFS Physical Palladium Shares (PALL) is up 6.23% year to date and up 23.46% over the last year. The ETFS Physical Platinum Shares (PPLT) is down 3.28% year to date but up 2.08% over the last year.

Shares of Stillwater Mining are up 63.9% over the last year, but have climbed just 1.7% in 2013 to date.

For the company’s first quarter, reported on April 29, it announced production of 127,100 ounces of palladium and platinum, a 5.2% increase from the first quarter of 2012. Realized prices for palladium rose to $725 an ounce in the quarter from $671 in the first quarter of 2012 and for platinum to $1628 an ounce from $1598 in the first quarter of 2012.

One of the things that I especially like about Stillwater is that its production is very heavily slanted toward palladium, my preference between these two metals in 2013. Of the company’s first quarter production 98,000 ounces were palladium and 29,000 were platinum.

As of May 21, 2013, I calculate a target price of $18 a share, a slight tweak upward from my previous target of $17 a share. That’s 39.8% above the price of $12.87 at noon EDT on Tuesday.

Full disclosure: I don’t own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this post in my personal portfolio. When in 2010 I started the mutual fund I manage, Jubak Global Equity Fund, I liquidated all my individual stock holdings and put the money into the fund. The fund did not own shares of Stillwater Mining as of the end of March. For a full list of the stocks in the fund as of the end of March see the fund’s portfolio.

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May 21, 2013 4:12PM

Jim..I like most of your coverage; But would like to have seen a better apples to apples comparison..


Such as maybe Canada's North Amer Pal...(PAL) versus (SWC)...

Not just "your" pick or compares to Funds or ETFs.


One to two paragraphs on their fundamentals or your likes/dislikes...Simple stuff..

For us simple minded..

Yes we have owned them at various times....Not at the moment. 


May 22, 2013 12:21AM

PAL has been on a steady decline in the last 2 years (new recent 2 year low..., price divided by 8 in that time) when SWC is on the uptrend over the last 12 months.


The market seems to already have made its preference between the two.

May 21, 2013 11:50PM

Here's some much more interesting that has come out of the delving into corporation txaes.


"Yes, it's all true. Technically, the NFL is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization. That part of the Internal Revenue Code "provides for the exemption of business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade and professional football leagues, which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual."

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