What: Stillwater Mining Company's (SWC) shares rose a touch over 28% last month. Although a rally in the company's main markets, platinum and palladium, was the big reason for the advance, solid earnings news helped out, too.
So what: As 2016 started, platinum prices were heading lower. But then, at about the middle of January, the metal began to rally, which continued through February and into the early days of March. And it's a big piece of Stillwater's price advance.
However, there's something else that happened, too. On Jan. 19, just about the same time that markets in which Stillwater operates began to turn higher, the miner released an update on its 2015 results. It was pretty good reading.
That set the stage for earnings released on Feb. 22. Although the markets were already primed for what was to come, the final results proved that Stillwater was able to cut costs, invest in its business, and solidify its financial position despite the weak commodity market. In fact, although it lost money for the full year, it was able to turn a small profit in the final quarter. Not bad when the price of the commodity you sell fell nearly 25% year over year.
When you put a rallying commodity market together with solid financials, well, you get a nice price advance. And that's exactly what happened last month.
Now what: Stillwater's February advance wasn't as large as that of some other miners -- specifically those with more troubled operations. And it's important to note that Stillwater isn't a gold miner, so it moves to a slightly different drumbeat. That said, if you're looking for exposure to platinum and palladium, Stillwater is a good option for most investors. Moreover, with the industrial applications for these metals, there could be more reason to favor them over gold over the long term.