Silver, platinum and palladium join massive selloff

The Divers at Dubai Mall Waterfalls (Adobe Stock)

Precious metals that are heavily used in industrial production joined the massive selloff across financial markets that saw copper tumbling as investors’ risk appetite weakened.

Platinum, used to curb emissions from diesel-fueled vehicles, slumped the most on record, while silver touched the lowest in more than a decade. Palladium, which generated the highest return among major commodities last year, headed for its biggest six-session loss in records going back to 1993. Copper, a barometer of global growth, plunged to the lowest in more than three years.

China posted a historic economic slump in the first two months of the year — which was even larger than analysts feared. That offset support arising from a raft of stimulus measures rolled out by central banks across the world. Stock markets resumed their slide after Friday’s bounce, with miners including Glencore Plc, BHP Billiton and Anglo American Plc plunging in London. All the main base metals traded lower.

Platinum slumped the most on record, while silver touched the lowest in more than a decade

“The short-term outlook for the metals market is only getting gloomier,” Wenyu Yao, senior commodities strategist at ING Bank, said in an emailed note. “The supply growth of some metals hasn’t slowed as many expected, and the large inventory overhang is just a mirror of how bad demand looks.”

The plunge in Chinese industrial output, retail sales and fixed-asset investment leaves the country on course for its first quarterly economic contraction since comparable data began in 1989.

“We have seen demand shocks across the industrial metals complex before, but this time there needs to be an understanding that a return to normalcy could be slower,” said Michael Cuoco, head of fund sales for metals and bulks at INTL FCStone. “Everyone received the script last week and the negative news cycle only continued over the weekend.”

Investors are exiting risk assets amid uncertainty whether policy responses would be enough to counter the mounting economic toll from the global pandemic.

Platinum fell as much as 26% to $564 an ounce, the biggest intraday slump for spot prices in data going back to 1987.

On the New York Mercantile Exchange, futures for delivery in April closed 12% lower at $657.70, the biggest slump for a most-active contract on records dating to 1986

Palladium extended its slide, taking losses in the past six sessions to 36%. The metal fell as much as 18% to $1,495 an ounce on Monday.

In the futures market, the metal for June delivery settled 0.3% higher after plunging as much as 10%

Silver, used in solar panels, tumbled as much as 20% to $11.8053 an ounce, the lowest spot price since January 2009.

Copper futures for May delivery fell as much as 5.2% to $2.335 a pound. The metal used in construction, cars and electronic devices, settled at $2.3925, the lowest close for a most-active contract since early 2016.

On the London Metal Exchange, copper, aluminum, zinc, nickel, lead and tin all fell.

(By Mark Burton and Justina Vasquez)

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