Photographer: Kimimasa Mayama/Bloomberg

Platinum’s Discount Trade to Gold Lures Japanese Jewelry Lovers

Japanese retail investors, the biggest buyers of platinum, are pursuing their love affair with the metal as it continues to trade at a rare discount to haven asset stable-mate gold, according to the world’s top retailer.

Sales of platinum bars rose 17 percent this year at shops operated by Tanaka Kikinzoku Kogyo K.K., Eiichiro Kato, retail unit general manager, said Monday in an interview in Tokyo. This extends gains last year when they tripled to 16.73 tons (537,946 troy ounces), breaking the record set in 2008 during the global financial crisis.

A clouding of the global economic outlook has pushed gold 27 percent higher this year, outpacing platinum’s 23 percent gain. Platinum doesn’t look set to regain its premium over gold anytime soon, encouraging Japan’s individual investors to buy the metal, Kato said. It last traded at a premium to gold in January of 2015.

"Both gold and platinum are viewed as subjects for investment in Japan, and that’s unique," Kato said. "Chinese people don’t buy much platinum as they like gold much better. Neither do Americans."

Japanese demand for platinum jewelry began rising in the 1970s and at one time accounted for almost half of all platinum jewelry sales globally, aided by the nation’s post-war economic expansion. It’s hard to see an event risk that would trigger a jump in the platinum price, while global investors will likely continue to seek gold amid the uncertainty of the economic outlook, Kato said.

Platinum traded at $1,100.09 an ounce as of 11:00 a.m. in Tokyo, while gold traded at $1,349.34 an ounce.

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