There are tens of thousands of essays that could be written under the heading “The perversity of the market.”  The one that hits me today has to do with a few of the industrial Platinum Group Metals (PGM’s).  The “bling” PGM’s, that is, gold, silver, and platinum, have been strengthening in price the last few months. Gold opened on the EIB at US$922/toz today. It is up a bit over over $200 per troy ounce since the middle of November 2008. Platinum is up nearly $100/toz over the same period, opening today at US$1040/toz.  Silver is up nearly 30 % since November as well, opening the day at US$13.18/toz.  

Compare this to Ruthenium, which continues to settle in the muck of market neglect. It opened at US$75/toz today, down from US$228/toz in November 2008.  Ruthenium is firmly in the realm of industrial specialty metals. Ruthenium is not used to set precious stones in a necklace nor does it decorate the slender fingers of someones sweetheart. Ruthenium is a utilitatian transition metal fortuitiously seated east of Rhodium, north of Osmium, and south of Iron.

Here is the perverse part. Now that Ruthenium prices are low, the price you are paying for that Ruthenium catalyst or CVD chemical or raw material is finally decent. The down side is that the demand for the downstream product is also at a low point. Now that you might be able to make some money using Bobby Grubbs’ catalyst in your process, the demand for product has dried up. Bummer, dude.

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