Ayear I ago I recommended a "trade of the lustrum".
A lustrum, by the way, is a five-year period.
Oil, at just over $30 per barrel, was the recommended trade. So far it's working out.
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Today I have another trade of the lustrum for you.
Platinum looks dirt cheap compared to gold
At present we are near the top of that range.
An ounce of gold is give or take $1,200, while platinum sits at just below $1,000. So the gold price is 1.2 times that of platinum. The all-time high at least since the great monetary reset of 1971 is 1.4 times. This occurred in 1983.
Meanwhile, in 2008, platinum went to almost $2,300 an ounce. The gold price was just over $1,000 at the time. In other words, an ounce of gold was worth less than half an ounce of platinum. Now an ounce is more expensive.
The trade then was to sell platinum and buy gold with the money.
The trade now is the opposite of that to sell gold and buy platinum.
This is not me making a bearish call on gold, by the way. This theme of social division, which I mentioned last week, has not gone away. In fact, in the space of just seven days, thanks to the US immigration fiasco, it has got worse. It's here for the time being and I don't really see it getting much better. Moreover, there is the gold-bullish possibility of inflation making a return.
But these same factors that will push the gold price up, should also push up the platinum price or at least they shouldn't negatively affect it. Platinum is a precious, hard asset and hard assets do well in inflationary scenarios.
There is also the added possibility that what seems like a permanent supply deficit in platinum may actually start to count for something in terms of pushing up the platinum price. There's also the fact that platinum is sitting below its cost of production, an anomaly which should eventually right itself.
My main concern with platinum is that demand will fall, due to falling demand for diesel catalytic converters with the onset of electric cars, self-driving cars and this general change of sentiment towards diesel engines after the Volkswagen scandal. (A higher oil price might boost demand for diesel, but we will wait and see about that.)
All in all, platinum needs a better story. But narratives often develop with a rising price, so it may be that we get that narrative further down the road.
The other possibility is that gold falls, of course, and that's a very real possibility. Should that be the case, I would argue that the platinum price will not fall by as much as the price of gold, for the reasons stated above.
Why platinum looks a great bet now
Even if the gold price stays where it is, but the ratio of platinum to gold goes back to its longer-term average, you are still looking at some upside.
My colleague Charlie Morris, who is the man who put me onto this idea in his excellent Fleet Street Letter, calculates that the 20-year average ratio between the two metals is 0.75.
An ounce of gold, in other words, should cost about three quarters the price of an ounce of platinum. A reversion to that mean would currently give us a platinum price of $1,600. In other words, even if gold stays where it is, platinum could rise by 60% and nothing particularly abnormal would have occurred.
Platinum jewellery demand should remain constant, if not grow. Given the choice between a platinum or a gold ring, I think most people would choose the platinum, particularly if it is cheaper.
That's because, in the human psyche, platinum is more valuable than gold. Thus a platinum credit card has a higher ranking than a gold. A musician craves platinum album sales certification above gold.
The fact that platinum is cheaper than gold goes against this psychology. It won't be the case forever. It might not change tomorrow, but it will change. So sell your gold (some of it, anyway) and buy platinum with the money another trade of the lustrum for you.
Dominic Frisby (“mercurially witty” – the Spectator) is the world’s only financial writer and comedian. He is MoneyWeek’s main commentator on gold, commodities, currencies and cryptocurrencies. He is the author of the books Bitcoin: the Future of Money? and Life After The State. He also co-wrote the documentary Four Horsemen, and presents the chat show, Stuff That Interests Me.
His show 2016 Let’s Talk About Tax was a huge hit at the Edinburgh Festival and Penguin Random House have since commissioned him to write a book on the subject – Daylight Robbery – the past, present and future of tax will be published later this year. His 2018 Edinburgh Festival show, Dominic Frisby's Financial Gameshow, won rave reviews. Dominic was educated at St Paul's School, Manchester University and the Webber-Douglas Academy Of Dramatic Art.
You can follow him on Twitter @dominicfrisby
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