Why a Platinum ETF May Be Right for You

Platinum has a bewildering number of uses, and more are being uncovered seemingly on a daily basis. Platinum is one of six metals with similar characteristics. You’ll often hear the term platinum group metals (PGMs) to describe these elements. Along with platinum, they include iridium, osmium, palladium, rhodium and ruthenium.

If you want to increase your exposure to platinum, a platinum ETF is an easy way to do so. Below, we’ll look at a popular platinum ETF that’s available to investors right now. But first, let’s examine a few of the metal’s uses, along with factors affecting its price and prospects.

Platinum’s innate characteristics are the reason behind its legendary versatility. For example, it is extremely wear-resistant, which makes it ideal for use in jewelry. It also holds up well in high temperatures and when exposed to different chemicals. In addition, it’s also a good conductor of electricity, which makes it an important element for the fast-growing electronics industry.

Since the 1970s, the auto industry has been a major consumer, incorporating platinum in catalytic converters, which remove harmful pollutants from vehicle exhaust. Other uses include laboratory equipment, dental instruments, furnace components, computer hard disks and cancer treatment.

At the same time, the metal remains relatively scarce. According to Monex Precious Metals, platinum production fell 9% last year, to 5.8 million ounces from 6.4 million in 2011, largely because of mine strikes in South Africa. That country produces 70% of the world’s platinum and holds 80% of its reserves. Monex only sees production recovering 3% in 2013.That scarcity, along with rising demand, should help support prices.

A Low-Fee Platinum ETF That Tracks the Spot Price

If you want to add platinum exposure to your portfolio, there are a number of ways to do it. For example, you could buy platinum bullion from a dealer, invest in shares of platinum mining companies or purchase units of a platinum ETF.

One platinum ETF that aims to track the metal’s price is ETFS Physical Platinum Shares (NYSE: PPLT). Shares of the platinum ETF are issued by the ETFS Platinum Trust and are backed by platinum bullion, which the trust holds in vaults in Zurich, Switzerland, and London, England.

The price of this platinum ETF is based on the spot price of platinum minus the trust’s expenses. The fund’s management expense ratio is 0.60%. It is fairly liquid, with average daily volume of around 70,000 shares.

Other options to consider include the UBS E-TRACS Long Platinum Total Return ETN (NYSE: PTM) and the iPath Dow Jones AIG Total Return Sub-Index ETN (NYSE: PGM).