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Speculative, industrial buying pushes ruthenium as high as $180/oz

Washington — Ruthenium prices surged this week as industrial buyers jumped back intothe market alongside speculative investors, who have been eyeing potential newapplications for the metal.

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The Platts New York Dealer ruthenium price range jumped to $150-$180/ozfrom $135-$150/oz last week. Some sources put the top end at $185/oz, but thatappeared to be an offer level only.

The majority of the buying appeared to happen late last week when most USmarket players were away from their desks for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Both major European refiners -- Engelhard Materials Services (BASF) ofGermany and Johnson Matthey of the UK -- kicked off this week with base pricesof $160/oz.

Engelhard ended the week at $170/oz, up from $140/oz before the USholiday last week, while Johnson Matthey ended the week at $165/oz, up from$160/oz on November 24.

Though some industrial interest was cited, most sources attributed thebuying to speculative investors. "It seemed to be more heavily weighted toward speculators than consumerswith this push," one PGMs refiner said Thursday, putting this week's range ofphysical deals between $150/oz and $180/oz.

A second PGMs refiner said he saw both industrial and speculative buying,with some deals done above $170/oz. "I think there was a little of both," hesaid, putting this week's range at $150-$180/oz.

"But I know for a fact that there are some people who just think they canget some money out of it," he said.

A PGMs dealer in Europe who saw the market this week at $140-$160/ozagreed that speculative investors had been active.

"We saw some investor liquidation in China. It's not a totally bad sign,but if there is a lot of selling out of China, then I think it might force themarket a little lower," he said. "But we have people in the West looking formaterial."

The European dealer said he had heard of offers at $180/oz, but did notbelieve any business had been done there.

Speculative investors have been eyeing reports in recent months aboutpotential new uses for ruthenium in semiconductors, hard-disk drives andchemical catalysis.

LATE WEEK SURGE FOR RHODIUM

Rhodium, which had spent the first half of the week at $1,500/oz,suddenly jumped about $30/oz on Thursday. Both Engelhard and Johnson Mattheyclosed the week at $1,530/oz after starting the week at $1,500/oz.

The Platts New York Dealer rhodium price range rose this week to$1,470-$1,550/oz from $1,430-$1,525/oz.

Sources attributed the increase to bargain hunting by industrialconsumers, especially after the two major European refiners raised theirprices in tandem Thursday.

"That seemed to spark a flurry of activity. I heard some people weretrading as high as $1,580/oz, but I didn't see it," one US PGMs dealer said,putting the market this week at $1,470-$1,550/oz.

"There was some buying from Europe that started overnight, and that's whyI think it was mostly [industrial] consumer buying," the first PGMs refinersaid Thursday, putting this week's market at $1,450-$1,545/oz.

Rhodium had been in a downtrend since hitting a six-year high of$1,675/oz in late October.

Nearly three-quarters of rhodium demand comes from the global autosector, which uses the metal in catalytic converters to reduce greenhouse gasemissions and atmospheric pollutants.

--Nick Jonson, nick.jonson@spglobal.com

--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, keiron.greenhalgh@spglobal.com