The spot price of platinum is the per-ounce price for immediate delivery of platinum in “good delivery bars (99.95% pure)” at a commodities exchange, namely those bars that can be delivered to satisfy delivery of a platinum futures contract. The size of the bars can vary by the exchange. Platinum trades on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) in 50-ounce contracts. On the Tokyo Commodities Exchange (TOCOM), the platinum contract size is 500 grams (16.08 troy ounces).
As with other commodities, the spot price of platinum is actually derived using contracts for future delivery of platinum or futures contracts traded on global commodities exchanges. Specifically, the spot price of platinum is based on the forward month platinum contract with the highest trading volume. Since the highest volume contract can vary, sometimes the platinum spot price is based on a contract just days out and sometimes on a contract months out from expiration.
The practice of buying commodity futures contracts dates back to even to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Commodity exchanges and the futures contracts have always been a practical way for sellers and consumers of commodities to lock in prices for purchase and sale at a future date. The first officially recognized commodity exchange in the US was the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT), formed in 1848. Commodity futures were designed as a practical way for commodity buyers and sellers to hedge the risk of fluctuation in commodity prices by establishing pricing months or even years ahead of delivery.
Today, with Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and derivative instruments, commodity futures trading is sometimes dominated by market speculation and has lead to more volatile commodity markets. It is also why with all the trading of platinum, very little physical platinum is delivered relative to the contracts traded. Most platinum futures contracts are cash-settled.
Long-term the spot price of platinum is driven by such factors as supply, demand, manufacturing outlook, and the geopolitical environment. However, we sometimes see large volume speculative trading creating short-term volatility.
How does the spot price of platinum relate to the price of platinum coins and bars?
Platinum dealers, like Midas Gold Group, almost always use the spot price as a basis for the pricing of various platinum bullion coins and bars. The easiest way to consider the relationship between the platinum spot price is to compare it to other commodities.
Crude oil, for example, is traded based on a spot price per 42-gallon barrel. That barrel of oil is purchased, transported to a refinery where is refined into the gasoline that you put in your car. While you don’t buy your gasoline at the spot price of oil, the current oil spot price is used as the cost basis for the daily pricing of gasoline at most major gas stations.
Likewise, platinum can be delivered through a commodity exchange in a large raw form. From here, it is transported and refined and minted into an investment bar or coins available to investors. Again, the price you can buy or sell a platinum bullion bar or coin for is generally dictated by the daily spot price but will not be the same as the spot price.