(New throughout, adds comments, updates prices)
* ECB leaves interest rates unchanged
* Platinum on track for worst day since Dec. 2008
* Silver drops to near eight month low
* Interactive graphic on coronavirus spread: open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in external browser
* GRAPHIC-2020 asset returns: http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl
March 12 (Reuters) - Palladium plunged more than 11% on Thursday, en route to its biggest daily drop since 2008, while gold slipped over 3% as the United States travel ban on Europe over virus spread drove jittery investors to liquidate assets across the board. Other precious metals also joined the free fall, with platinum declining over 7% and silver sliding more than 6%. Global stocks plunged into a bear market and oil slumped more than 5% after U.S. President Donald Trump banned travel from Europe to stem the spread of coronavirus, threatening more disruption to the world economy. "It is a rush to cash and a mild panic type move. What we are seeing is market participants and investors indiscriminately selling every asset class," said David Meger, director of metals trading at High Ridge Futures. "People are selling gold and silver positions in order to finance equity positions or other situations," he added.Spot gold was down 3.4% at $1,578.99 per ounce as of10:24 a.m. EDT (1424 GMT). U.S. gold futures dropped 3.7%
to $1,581.30 The precious metal surged past the $1,700 per ounce level for the first time since late 2012 on Monday as investors flew to safety amid falling oil prices and rise in virus cases across the world. The coronavirus, which has infected more than 121,000 people in 118 countries and killed over 4,300, was described as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.
"The Covid-19 pandemic has the global marketplace in panic. "When in doubt, get out" is the mantra today," Kitco Metals senior analyst Jim Wyckoff said in a note. Global central banks have taken steps to help economies to cope with the growing cost of the coronavirus. The U.S. Federal Reserve reduced rates in an emergency move last week. Lower interest rates decrease the opportunity cost of holding nonyielding bullion and weigh on the dollar, making gold cheaper for investors holding other currenciesThe dollar index gained 0.5% against a basket of
major currencies . Meanwhile, the European Central Bank approved fresh stimulus measures on Thursday, but kept interest rates unchanged.Auto-catalyst metal palladium plunged 11% to
$2,051.64 to a two-month low. "Palladium is one of the riskier assets," said Vandana Bharti, assistant vice-president of commodity research at SMC Comtrade, adding reduced demand from the automobile sector was weighing on the metal.Silver fell 5.3% to $15.86, its lowest since July 17.Platinum lost 7.4% to $796.45, on track for its worst
day since Dec. 2008.
(Reporting by Brijesh Patel in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft)