Why are rhodium prices on a roll? (The Economist – January 25, 2020)


When anna scott left her Honda Jazz in a commuters’ car park outside Oxford on January 10th, she had little reason to think that criminals would take an interest in the 12-year-old car.

Yet the next afternoon a group of shifty characters were spotted sawing off its catalytic converter. Such incidents have become more frequent across Britain as prices for palladium and rhodium, metals contained in the devices, have rocketed.

The price of rhodium has risen by 63% in the first three weeks of January alone, to $9,850 per ounce, around six times that of gold. There is no telling when it will fall back to earth.

Demand from carmakers is surging. More than four-fifths of global demand for rhodium comes from the automotive industry. The metal, together with platinum and palladium, helps convert toxic gases in a vehicle’s exhaust system (such as carbon monoxide) into less harmful substances before they leave the tailpipe. Facing stricter emissions regulations around the world, carmakers are taking even more of a shine to these metals.

Although the price of palladium has reached a record high, that of platinum has stayed relatively stable. The contrast reflects a shift in production towards petrol and hybrid cars, which tend to use greater quantities of palladium in their converters, and away from diesel engines, which use more platinum.

For the rest of this article: https://www.economist.com/finance-and-economics/2020/01/25/why-are-rhodium-prices-on-a-roll