It was a brutal six years for the mining industry. While some metals saw their prices rebound in 2017, others did not.
There is a formula for rising prices – demand must exceed supply. In some cases, like zinc, a lack of investment mean supply fell below demand. Copper, whose price rose 27% since early 2016, is another metal that will struggle to meet demand.
In 2018, a different metal's price will begin its rise …
Platinum's New Trend
Platinum's price steadily declined from 2011 to 2016. The price fell by more than half to January 2016. There was a brief rebound that year. Then the price collapsed to its lowest price in two years earlier this month.
The question is: Why do I think this trend will change in 2018?
The answer is simple … supply can not keep up with demand. In 2017, the supply / demand number was almost even. According to the World Platinum Investment Council, 2017 will end with a small deficit, around 15,000 ounces.
However, that same group expects the gap to expand. In 2018, demand for platinum will rise 2% to 8 million ounces. Supply will fall by 1% to 7.75 million ounces. That means the deficit will be 250,000 ounces.
An Extreme Low for Platinum Prices
In the past, this kind of deficit was enough to draw platinum sellers out. However, the platinum price is sitting at an extreme low. Without a significant increase in price, there will not be an incentive for sellers. That's one reason I expect platinum prices to rise in 2018.
But there's another reason … sentiment.
One of the reasons that copper prices rose so quickly in 2017 was the idea that electric vehicles would spur demand. That's right, the price of copper rose because of expected demand. On the opposite side of the coin, platinum prices fell because of a lack of expected demand.
Platinum's main commercial use is in diesel catalytic converters. In the wake of the Volkswagen scandal, where the company admitted to making diesel efficiency, the perception of diesel cars fell. And so did the perception of platinum.
In other words, investors did not think demand for platinum would come, so they did not buy platinum. And so, the price fell.
From a supply perspective, platinum is far worse off than either zinc or copper. Platinum is not widespread. Most of the existing mines are deep, old and running out of metal. There are not many new platinum mines on the horizon.
Add that to low prices (which spur demand) and a stronger European economy (that prefers diesel cars). That will change platinum's fortunes in 2018. It would not surprise me to see platinum prices rise 25% next year.