Investors scoop up new U.S. platinum coins as gold slumps

Tue Apr 1, 2014 5:54pm EDT
 
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By Frank Tang

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. retail investors have raced to scoop up the government's newly launched platinum coins, data shows, as industrial metals prices outperformed bullion, a long-time favorite among collectors.

In the first three weeks since relaunching the American Eagle platinum coins on March 10, the U.S. Mint sold some 10,000 ounces, data showed. In March, platinum prices rose almost 1 percent, sharply outperforming gold's 3 percent fall.

Sales of the Eagle platinum coins remained small compared with sales of lower-cost established products like silver coins, but the total is almost a third of the 33,000 ounces sold in 2008 before the government abandoned the product due to weak demand.

Dealers said the early, brisk pace of sales reflects pent-up demand and worries about future supplies from top-producing country South Africa. Platinum held by the world's major exchange-traded funds was currently at their highest level in at least four years, Reuters data showed. <GOL/ETF>

"The outright platinum market has actually been performing better than gold and silver, and that has helped attract some investors to the physical platinum market," Said Roy Friedman, executive vice president at Dillon Gage, a major U.S. coin wholesaler in Dallas.

Investors have been piling into the platinum market on hopes that an improving global economy will boost the metal mostly consumed by the auto industry.

The Mint resumed selling its platinum bullion coins on March 10, ending a four-year absence from the market.

Demand for gold coins, considered a benchmark for retail appetite for bullion, sank as investors continued to liquidate stockpiles.   Continued...

 
Platinum bars are seen in Munich March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Michael Dalder