Swiss platinum imports hit 4-yr low in April
LONDON May 24 (Reuters) - Imports of platinum to Switzerland, a major clearing hub, fell to their lowest in over four years, driven by a drop in South African shipments, while imports of palladium hit three-month highs, according to Swiss customs data on Thursday.
Exports of platinum to China, the world's largest consumer of platinum jewellery, fell to 903 kgs from 1,022 kgs in March, while exports of palladium to China, which is also the world's largest car market, fell to nil from 99 kgs the month before.
Switzerland imported 949 kg, or 30,511 ounces, of platinum in April, down from 3,411 kgs in March, the lowest since the 921 kgs recorded in February 2008, while total exports rose to 3,692 kgs, their highest so far this year.
Imports from top producer South Africa fell to a three-month low of 339 kgs, from 1,011 kgs the previous month.
This fall was the result of a sharp decline in recent months in output at most mining companies because of safety stoppages, which in February and March was compounded by a strike at Impala Platinum's Rustenburg mine, the world's largest platinum facility.
Total palladium imports into Switzerland rose to a three-month high of 3,197 kgs in April from 616 kgs in March. Imports from Russia, the largest producer of the metal fell to nothing in April, from 2,014 kgs in March.
Exports rose to a two-month high of 2,233 kgs.
Sales of surplus material from Russian government stockpiles have been a swing factor in recent years in determining the balance of supply and demand in the palladium market.
Sales are expected to dwindle to around 250,000 ounces this year from over 1 million ounces in previous years, according to refiner Johnson Matthey, which produces an annual review of the platinum group metals market.
Platinum and palladium are used in industrial applications, predominantly in the form of catalytic converters to cut vehicle emissions and depend greatly on the health of the U.S., Chinese and European regional economies for demand. (Reporting by Amanda Cooper; editing by James Jukwey)
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