Precious Metals

It isn’t common, but rhodium is on a major tear

The spot price of the precious metal rhodium, which is tied to the gas-fueled automobile market, has been surging in recent months.

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Investors are loving rhodium.

The rare precious metal, typically used in automobile exhaust systems to make emissions more clean, has a surging spot price.

According to Kitco, the unsung metal’s monthly average price in March 2017 ($834.44) is 16.6 percent higher than December 2016’s average ($715.45), and 40 percent higher than the August 2016 average ($597.52).

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During the same time frame, gold has actually fallen, from a monthly average spot price of $1,341.09 in August 2016 to a $1,217.98 average in March 2017. The same is true for silver, with a monthly average that has gone from $19.64 in August 2016, to $17.59 in March 2017.

So why the sudden spike in demand for rhodium?

Well, look no further than China. 

Bloomberg reports that last year, Chinese consumers purchased more automobiles than the previous three years. And the Chinese automibile market still favors gas-fueled vehicles that need the rhodium-based exhaust cleaning systems.

Jonathan Butler, a precious metals strategist at Mitsubishi Corp., told Bloomberg there are signs that Chinese car ownership levels could match U.S. levels in the future.

Oh, and there’s also President Donald Trump’s desire to lower fuel-economy standards, which could give a boost to gas-fueled vehicle production in the United States, too.

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Bloomberg reports, “This year’s advance compares with a 13 percent gain for palladium and a 7.8 percent increase for platinum, which is also used to curb car emissions. All three metals are mined together, mainly in South Africa.”

With China’s gas-fueled car market still on the rise, one can bet that rhodium will continue to be in demand. However, the Bloomberg report explains, because it’s the smallest precious metal market, its price is subject to volatile rises and falls.

That might be why its price rose by a factor of 23 between 2003 and 2008, ultimately reaching the $10,100 mark.

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