Platinum ETNs On Deck

May 07, 2008

At long last, it looks like U.S. investors are going to have access to platinum via an exchange-traded product.

At long last, it looks like U.S. investors are going to have access to platinum via an exchange-traded product. The precious metal was largely inaccessible to those who did not want to participate directly in the futures market, but the launch of two exchange-traded notes, the E-TRACS UBS Long Platinum ETN (NYSE: PTM) and E-TRACS UBS Short Platinum ETN (NYSE: PTD), appears to be imminent on the NYSE.

A while back, Barclays Global Investors had sought to launch a platinum-based exchange-traded fund similar to its asset-backed gold and silver ETFs. However, rumors were that it faced heated opposition from the platinum industry, which was concerned that a platinum ETF that hoarded physical platinum might drive up the price of the shiny stuff.

Why would producers be against that? Because despite perceptions, platinum is really an industrial metal, used in the manufacture of catalytic converters among other things. The producers were worried that if the price became too volatile, industrial users would seek other, cheaper raw materials.

The new ETNs sidestep that concern because they are likely based on futures contracts, which are typically cash-settled, and so will not have an immediate effect on the supply and demand of platinum.

Currently, ETF Securities, a European firm, has listed three platinum funds offering short, long and double-long exposure on European exchanges. Those include a physical platinum fund (the "long" fund) and two exchange-traded note products (the leveraged and short funds). They are the only products available to investors who wish to invest in platinum without getting directly involved in the futures markets, and they are not available to U.S. investors.

The UBS ETNs will track the UBS Bloomberg CMCI Platinum Total Return Index. The E-TRACS family of ETNS already has several commodities-based ETNs covering different sectors as well as gold and silver currently trading, all of them tracking the UBS Bloomberg CMCI and its subindexes. The NYSE Web site had listed today as the launch date for PTM and PTD, but the roll-out appears to have been delayed. It's a fairly safe bet though that they will be making their debut any day now.


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