Best-Performing Metals as Hard to Trade as They Are to Find – by Eddie Van Der Walt (Bloomberg News – July 14, 2017)

Even if you’d heard of this year’s best-performing metals, betting on them would probably have been a struggle. Ruthenium, iridium and the somewhat better known rhodium — used mostly in specialized products like hard disks, spark plugs and autocatalysts — have trounced almost all major commodities tracked by Bloomberg.

Prices are up at least 33 percent this year as demand improved for raw materials that are among the world’s rarest and collected as byproducts of mining the precious metals platinum and palladium.

Unlike most other commodities, which are bought and sold on exchanges around the world, these metals are quirky assets. There are few exchange-traded funds backed by rhodium and they are small and thinly traded. It’s even harder to buy and sell ruthenium and iridium, where most deals are between suppliers and industrial users.

That leaves retail investors with a limited choice of bars or coins from a handful of dealers, or getting minor exposure to the metals with shares of long-suffering platinum miners in top producer South Africa.

“This market is only open to the professionals working within it,” said Gerry Dawson, a consultant at G2 LLC who has traded precious metals for about two decades since working at refiner Heraeus Metals New York LLC. “Essentially, the only way to participate in these rallies is to buy the metal and stick it in a vault, and even then you may not be able to find someone who’d buy it back.”

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