Polyvalent Transition Metal of the Day: Rhenium

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Includes: CMCLF, MTLCF, RIO
by: Felix Salmon

If you want a leveraged play on long-term energy prices, rhenium might be a good place to look. The obscure metal has a very high melting point of 3,186°C -- only tungsten's is higher -- which means that if you use it in turbine blades, that allows engines to run hotter and burn fuel more effectively. Demand for the metal is now so strong that it costs $11,100 per kilo, up from less than $300 in the 1990s when fuel was cheap.

It turns out that the rhenium market is so small -- production only totals about 50 tons per year -- that it's not traded on any exchange. You want rhenium in any quantity? Then you'll probably have to talk to Anthony Lipmann, who's cornered the market in the metal and who doesn't think much of hedgies:

"I get calls from hedge funds every day," Lipmann said in an interview at his office in Walton-on-Thames, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of London. "I merely quake at the words, 'hedge fund.' We're like hedgehogs with their needles up when they come 'round. This is so arcane what we do; they'll never get in."

Of course, if you only want a small amount of the stuff, rhenium ribbon is available online for as little as $128. It might be the perfect material with which to wrap up a present for the minor-metals trader in your life.

 

(HT: Jones)