Palladium soars to record, gold moves back up above $1,300

Gold bars at the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant in Vienna, Austria.
Leonhard Foeger | Reuters
Gold bars at the Austrian Gold and Silver Separating Plant in Vienna, Austria.

Palladium hit a record peak on Friday, on expectations that Chinese economic stimulus would drive demand for the autocatalyst metal, while news that Russia may ban exports of precious metal scraps compounded worries of a supply deficit.

U.S. gold futures settled $7.80 higher at $1302.90.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Beijing was open to additional monetary policy measures to support economic growth this year.

"The announcement of specific stimulus measures helped sentiment in China, which arguably is the global marginal consumer in automobiles, helping palladium climb quietly to new highs," said Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO.

Spot palladium surged to a record $1,567.5 an ounce earlier in the session. The metal was trading 0.19 percent higher at $1,560.89 at 12:55 p.m. EST.

"There is (also) some concern that talk of possible scrap metal export ban in Russia could impact already extremely stretched palladium supplies," Wong said.

With the intention of promoting domestic refining of materials, Russia's trade and industry ministry is considering banning exports of precious metals scrap and tailings from the country, the world's largest producer of palladium, local newspaper Kommersant reported.

The price of the metal, used mainly in emissions-reducing catalysts for vehicles, has risen almost 90 percent from a trough in mid-August last year and is up about 24 percent so far this year.

"Palladium is starting to reach lofty levels off of which it could correct a bit in the short term," said David Meger, director of metals trading at High Ridge Futures.

Meanwhile, gold rebounded following the previous session's over 1 percent decline, gaining 0.5 percent to $1,302.89 an ounce en route to its second straight weekly rise.

Fuelling gold's advance, the dollar fell against its rivals, weighed down by weak manufacturing and factory output data, ahead of a Federal Reserve meeting next week expected to shed more light on the outlook for interest rates.

"For gold, whether it closes above or below $1,300 will help determine sentiment early next week before focus moves to the new Fed dot plot," BMO's Wong said.

Lower interest rates reduce the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion and weigh on the dollar.

Also, in a potentially bearish development for the dollar, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported representatives from Beijing and Washington made substantive progress on trade over a call.

The dollar has been preferred by investors as a refuge from deteriorating trade relations between the two countries. In other precious metals, silver gained 0.81 percent to $15.30 an ounce, and platinum jumped 1.37 percent to $829.70.