ETF Trends
ETF Trends

China is grabbing any and all natural resources, especially copper, and platinum’s prices are soaring these days. To capture the momentum, First Trust has launched the industry’s first equity-based platinum and copper exchange traded funds (ETFs).

The First Trust ISE Global Copper (NASDAQ: CU) and First Trust ISE Global Platinum (NASDAQ: PLTM) give investors the first exposure to platinum and copper equities in an ETF form.

Until now, copper exposure was available in an exchange traded note (ETN) via iPath Dow Jones UBS Copper (NYSEArca: JJC) or as a component of the PowerShares DB Base Metals (NYSEArca: DBB), which is 40% copper futures. [Why Metals ETFs Are Leading the Charge.]

Platinum exposure is available through the popular ETFS Physical Platinum (NYSEArca: PPLT), as well as through ETNs such as UBS E-TRACS Long Platinum (NYSEArca: PTM), UBS E-TRACS Short Platinum (NYSEArca: PTD) and iPath DJ-UBS Platinum (NYSEArca: PGM).

Mark Abssy, index and ETF manager at ISE, says the indexes behind the copper and platinum funds were developed in 2008 as investor interest in the ISE and First Trust natural gas ETF, First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas (NYSEArca: FCG) was gaining momentum. Commodities were also becoming a part of more and more headlines, leading ISE to think about other commodities that might be of interest to investors. “We were thinking along those lines – what can we help investors get exposure to?” Abssy says. “The first two we came up with were platinum and copper.” [Platinum and Palladium Price Drivers.]

The market cap minimum of $75 million is admittedly low. The reason, Abssy says, is that when considering  mining stocks, there are a number of companies still in the exploration stage, but have yield estimates based on geological surveys. “Much of their valuation is tied to the value of the commodity,” he says. Those companies tend to be more sensitive to underlying commodity price action, offering more direct exposure to the underlying commodity than fully functioning mines. [Your Guide to Investing In Metals ETFs.]

In the copper fund, the country allocations are Canada, 42%; Great Britain, 22%; Peru, 9.3%; Australia, 7%. There are also holdings in Russia, Turkey and other areas. If you’re surprised that Chile isn’t on the list, there’s a reason for that. Abssy acknowledges that while Chile is a major copper producer, many of the names already held in the underlying index already have major properties in Chile. Also, many of the major Chilean miners are still privately held. [The Impact of Chile’s Earthquake.]

“There are many cross-deals in the mining industry,” Abssy says. “You wouldn’t necessarily think that a tiny company is connected to a large one, but the industry is like a big extended family.”

The platinum country breakdown is South Africa, 29%; Canada, 25%, Great Britain 17%. Other countries appearing in smaller amounts include Australia, Russia and a few U.S. names.

The outlook for both the platinum and copper markets looks to be on the bullish side of things as the domestic and global economies recover even further:

  • Auto demand might be tepid now, but it’s showing signs of reviving.
  • Ryan Issakainen, an ETF strategist at First Trust, also points out that when you combine the rate of cars being scrapped to the rate of population growth, it’s potentially a formula for an increase in auto sales and production in the United States alone. Auto demand in emerging markets is also becoming more robust.
  • There are also tightening emissions standards; platinum and palladium are key components of catalytic converters, and can’t be substituted with any other metal.
  • There are trace amounts of platinum group metals (PGMs) found in smoke detectors, airbags, computer hard drives and they’re heavily used in the pharmaceutical and cancer research industries, as well.
  • On the copper side, a Barclays study recently projected that by the end of 2015, 1.5 billion Chinese citizens would each be using 12 pounds of copper – “astronomical when you think about the relatively tight supplies of copper,” Issakainen says.
  • Copper is also a major component in new buildings – it’s heavily used in wiring and pipes, two things any modern buildings can’t get by without. “Copper is used very heavily in the emerging markets buildup,” says Issakainen.

Both funds have an expense ratio of 0.70%.

For more stories about copper and platinum, visit our categories.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.