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PRECIOUS-Palladium tumbles 28%, gold over 4% in virus-led rout

Brijesh Patel

(Recasts, adds comments, updates prices)

* Platinum on track for its worst day since Sept. 1986

* Silver drops to near eight month low

* Palladium down over 30% from record peak

* GRAPHIC-2020 asset returns: http://tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl

March 12 (Reuters) - Palladium plunged as much as 28% on Thursday as panic selling driven by intensifying fears over the coronavirus pandemic seeped into precious metals, with gold slumping 4% as investors rushed to cover margin calls in other assets. Platinum plummeted more than 10% and silver shed nearly 7%. "It is a rush to cash and a mild panic-type move. What we're 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 to finance equity positions or other situations," he added. Global stock markets plunged into bear territory and oil slid 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.

Auto-catalyst metal palladium led the bloodbath in

the precious complex, diving to its lowest since October 2019 at $1,653.51 per ounce. "Apart from the overall drop across precious metals, palladium's move was exacerbated by news earlier this week of a breakthrough in catalytic converter technology, allowing for less use of the metal, which had damaged overall sentiment," said Tai Wong, head of base and precious metals derivatives trading at BMO. The metal has shed more than 30% since hitting an all-time high of $2,875.50 on Feb. 27, as demand concerns begin to overshadow a sharp supply shortfall.

Spot gold , meanwhile, was down 3.1% at $1,584.22 per

ounce by 12:56 p.m. EDT (1656 GMT). U.S. gold futures fell 3.4% to $1,586.80. Bullion has erased gains from a surge past the $1,700 per ounce level for the first time since late 2012 on Monday, when investors made a beeline for safe havens amid the rapid spread of the virus. The pandemic has infected more than 121,000 people in 118 countries and killed over 4,300. "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. "We might see extreme volatility for 1-2 more weeks until, hopefully, we get a better handle on the outbreak in Europe and U.S.," BMO's Wong said.

Further denting metals, the dollar gained 1.5%.Silver fell 5.1% to $15.90, its lowest since July 17.Platinum lost 10.3% to $771.59, on track for its

worst day since Sept. 1986.

(Reporting by Brijesh Patel and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru; editing by Diane Craft and Dan Grebler)

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