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China’s 2010 Platinum Imports Jump 40% on Car Sales

Platinum imports by China, the biggest car market, jumped 40 percent in 2010 as robust vehicle sales fueled demand for the precious metal. Silver exports fell on rising domestic consumption.

Shipments of platinum climbed to 75.9 metric tons last year, the General Administration of Customs said in an e-mailed report today. Imports last month were 9 tons, it said. Platinum is used in jewelry and in pollution-control devices.

Prices of platinum this week advanced to the highest since July 2008, extending a 21 percent rally last year, on expectations demand will gain alongside rising car sales.

“Demand from industries such as auto and glass more than compensated for the loss in jewelry sales because of the price gain,” Patrick Huang, official at Platinum Guild International, said by phone from Shanghai today.

China’s vehicle sales will grow 10 percent to 15 percent this year after jumping 32 percent to 18.06 million vehicles in 2010, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers forecast.

Platinum is used for about 75 percent of catalysts in diesel devices, according to Johnson Matthey, which produces a third of the world’s autocatalysts. The metal traded at $1,809.75 an ounce at 4:31 p.m. Singapore time.

Silver Exports

Silver exports from China fell for the second year in 2010 as domestic demand rose and local prices gained. China exported 1,575 tons of silver last year, down 58 percent from a year earlier, said customs.

“It’s not a viable business these days to export silver, given that domestic prices are higher than overseas ones,” Liu Yangyi, analyst at Sinogem Jewelry Import and Export Co. said today by phone from Beijing.

The metal for immediate delivery touched $31.2375 an ounce on Jan. 3, the highest price since September 1980, extending an 83 percent gain from last year. It traded at $27.2944 at 3:57 p.m. in Singapore.

Taurus Funds Management Pty sold all of the silver holdings in its $200 million precious-metals fund this month, saying the metal’s rally has been excessive, co-Manager Brenton Saunders said in an interview today.

Silver may retreat as much as 20 percent this year as soaring demand for physical metal signals a “crowded” trade, Barry James, chief executive officer of James Investment Research Inc., has said. James oversees $2.4 billion.

China raised export quotas for silver, tungsten and antimony for 2011, the Ministry of Commerce said on Oct. 28. The country may export a maximum of 5,670 tons of silver this year, compared with a maximum of 5,100 tons allowed in 2010, it said.

China’s imports of silver increased 15 percent to 5,159 tons in 2010, the customs agency said.

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