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Platinum, Palladium: When to Buy

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Platinum and palladium could reach around $1,300 and $400 an ounce, respectively, over the next couple of months, according to Commerzbank AG, the second-largest German bank. Currently, LME platinum and palladium for immediate delivery are trading at around $1,524 and $452 an ounce, respectively.

Platinum and palladium are used in the manufacture of catalytic converters for automobiles. Platinum and palladium have declined around 12.6% and 20.2%, respectively, from their peaks attained on April 26 and April 21 on concerns related to global economic growth and, in particular, the slowdown in demand for automobiles. Meanwhile, ETFS Physical Platinum Shares ETF (PPLT) and ETFS Physical Palladium Shares ETF (PALL) have declined around 13.0% and 20.4%, respectively, from the peaks reached in April.

A downturn in the auto industry indicates that consumption of platinum and palladium will continue to drop. Automobile sales in the U.S. have decreased 10.8% from around 1.1 million units in May 2010, to almost 982,000 in June. In Japan, car sales have plunged 24.6% from 893,059 units in the first quarter of 2010 to 673,540 in the second quarter. In these world's largest economies, consumers were reluctant to increase spending on concerns related to global economic growth.

In China, car production is down 6.9% from around 3.46 million units in the first quarter to 3.22 million in the second quarter. In India, car sales have dipped by 5% from 569,446 units in the first quarter to 540,643 in the second quarter. Much of the problem in these emerging markets is due to fears of rising inflation.

Despite the current slump in car production, analysts are bullish and anticipate strong resurgence in platinum and palladium prices during the fourth quarter. Car sales in China are expected to bounce in the fourth quarter, as consumers will look to benefit from various government tax rebates and incentives, before expiry at the end of the year.

The outlook for palladium, in particular, remains strong as the metal has started replacing platinum in auto catalyst applications and on the growing supply deficit.

Platinum prices are more dependent on the European economies because the auto industry in the region is powered by diesel engines, which use platinum, rather than palladium, as auto catalysts. The European auto industry accounted for around 50% of platinum use and about 20% of global consumption.

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