Platinum hits new 17-year high in Asia

TOKYO: Platinum forged a new 17-year high in Asia yesterday morning, buoyed by rising lease rates, fears of supply disruptions and high hopes for the metal after US President George W. Bush called for research into fuel cells. 

Spot platinum hit US$668/673 an ounce in thin morning trade, a level not seen since September 1986. It was last quoted at US$664/670 in New York. 

The metal, used mainly in catalytic converters and jewellery, got a boost from Bush's State of the Union address on Wednesday, in which he called for US$1.2bil in research funding to develop fuel cells. 

Fuel cells create electricity without pollution by combining hydrogen and oxygen into water. In their current form, they rely heavily on platinum as a catalyst. 

“There is no demand (for fuel cells) on a short-term basis, but it's kind of a new word in the market,” a dealer with a big Japanese trading house said, adding that US funds had been trying to squeeze up the market. – Reuters  

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