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Palladium surged past $1,600 for the first time in early trade on Tuesday on expectations that an already strained supply scenario for the autocatalyst metal could worsen, while platinum soared 3 percent. Gold also joined other precious metals to gain off a weaker dollar going into a US Federal Reserve meeting, amid persistent concerns about economic growth in the United States.

Spot palladium rose 0.2 percent to $1,587.00 per ounce as of 11:05 a.m. EDT (1505 GMT), having earlier hit an all-time high at $1,606. "Palladium market is in a very tight situation and we are looking at deficits," said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategies at TD Securities in Toronto.

"We saw some restrictions on Russian exports of scrap. Supply has been tight especially on the front end of the curve, and will continue to be." Compounding a weak supply scenario for palladium, Russia's trade and industry ministry is considering banning exports of precious metals scrap and tailings from the world's largest producer of the white metal, local newspaper Kommersant reported last week.

"When the market is as tight as palladium is, sometimes such news can take on more significance than it should," said Philip Newman, a director at Metals Focus. Meanwhile, China's vow to enforce stimulus measures to boost the economy in the world's biggest auto market could also fuel demand for the metal, analysts said.

While both platinum and palladium are primarily consumed by automakers for catalytic converter manufacturing, platinum is used more in the diesel vehicles that have fallen out of favour since the Volkswagen emissions-rigging scandal broke in 2015. Although it has been mostly overshadowed by palladium since 2017, platinum also jumped on Tuesday, to $855.33 an ounce, its highest since March 4.

"At palladium's $1,600 level, platinum looks really cheap. Users of platinum will increasingly be looking to substitute palladium with platinum, because it is half the price and provides security of supply," Melek said. Gold rose 0.3 percent to $1,307.82 per ounce, firming above the psychologically important $1,300 level as the dollar slipped, with the US currency having fallen 1.3 percent versus major currencies in the last 10 days.

US gold futures rose 0.5 percent to $1,307.70 per ounce. Markets anticipate the Fed will stay dovish during its two-day meeting, which starts at 1800 GMT, and expectations of an interest rate cut have increased after weaker-than-expected US manufacturing data on Friday. Lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding gold and weigh on the dollar. Spot silver shed 0.4 percent to $15.38 per ounce.

Copyright Reuters, 2019

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