March 5 (Bloomberg) -- Platinum and palladium prices may jump this year as a rebound in U.S. automobile sales boosts demand for the metals used in catalytic converters, said James Steel, the chief commodities analyst at HSBC Securities USA Inc.
The CHART OF THE DAY shows auto sales rose in five of the past six months and are running at the highest annual rate in four years. Platinum prices that are up 21 percent this year may advance 15 percent further to $1,950 an ounce, the highest since July 2008, Steel said. Palladium may reach $900 an ounce, up 26 percent from March 2 and the highest since 2001, he said.
Light-vehicles sales last month reached a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 15 million, the highest since February 2008, Autodata Corp. said March 1. General Motors Co., Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. topped analysts’ estimates as consumer confidence rose and the unemployment rate fell. Autocatalysts that use platinum or palladium are fitted to 95 percent of new cars.
“An improving U.S. economy will help platinum and palladium prices gain as we expect higher demand from the auto industry,” Steel said in a telephone interview in New York.
Russia, the world’s biggest palladium producer, may reduce sales from state stockpiles by 80 percent to 150,000 ounces, the smallest in at least eight years, Barclays Capital estimated in a Jan. 17 report. Global demand will exceed supplies from mine output and recycled scrap by 275,000 ounces in 2012, reducing inventories, Barclays said. The market will be in deficit until at least 2015, Credit Suisse Group AG says.
The Federal Reserve said on Feb. 29 that the U.S. economy expanded at a “modest to moderate pace” in January and early February, bolstered by manufacturing. Auto sales have rebounded since the annual-average rate reached a 27-year low of 9.34 million in February 2009, according to Autodata.
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