Platinum Mineworkers Win Strike in South Africa: Morning Market Update April 18

April 18th, 2014 by

empty-gold-mine-cartThe two largest platinum refining companies in the world, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum, have given in to striking mineworker demands for a 140% pay raise over three years.

The 13-week long strike, the longest in the industry’s history, has cost over 13 billion rand in lost revenues, and over 6 billion rand in lost wages to the workers.

The mining companies seemed to have the upper hand in this unprecedented contest of wills, as workers began to crack under the burden of three months without pay, but the union, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) made a public appeal for donations to a benevolent fund to help workers, and received very large donations from anonymous sources.

At this point, two of the three mining companies decided to throw in the towel, an submit to demands that they had maintained were impossible in the current economic climate. Only Lonmin has so far refused to acquiesce to the union’s demands.

The union’s jubilation may be short-lived, as in order to meet these pay demands, companies will have to drastically cut their workforce and close mines that were already marginal or losing money.  News of the accord caused platinum to fall $24 in afternoon trade in New York.

2014 1 oz Platinum American Eagle - Brilliant Uncirculated

2014 1 oz Platinum Eagle

Markets in the U.S., Europe, Hong Kong, and Singapore are closed today for the Good Friday/Easter holiday. Many investors looking to taking advantage of the dip in prices are buying physical platinum bars and coins before all markets reopen on Tuesday of next week.

The dollar is steady, and the yen saw a ten-day low, as an accord to de-escalate violence between Ukraine and Russia was reached. The agreement, brokered by the U.S. and E.U., calls for armed paramilitaries of both sides in eastern and western Ukraine to disarm and seized government buildings to be vacated, in return for a general amnesty. It remains to be seen if Russia can put its genie back in the bottle, after supporting unrest in the region.

iStock_000013551810MediumWall St. had its best week since last July, fueled by good earnings reports, while gold was down 1.9%. Year to date returns on futures still has gold up 7.5% for the year, compared to 1.28% for the S&P 500, a -0.52% for the Dow, and a -1.50% for the Nasdaq.

The London Metals Exchange and the New York Globex will both be closed on Monday.

In China, news that the rise in home prices continues to slow (up 7.7% for March, y/y, compared to 8.7% in February) raises hopes that the housing bubble is being contained. Government restrictions on speculative home buying by “flippers”, and tightening requirements on loans for secondary homes has helped slow down rampaging home prices.

What’s Coming Up Next Week?

  • Monday:  Leading economic indicators
  • Tuesday:   Existing home sales and retail sales
  • Wednesday:   The preliminary manufacturing PMI and new home sales
  • Thursday:  Durable Goods orders, and first-time jobless claims
  • Friday:  Consumer sentiment on Friday.

 

Have a safe and happy Easter holiday!

by Steven Cochran