March 16, 2020 / 4:17 AM / 17 days ago

Platinum slumps to lowest since 2002 as precious metals collapse

(Reuters) - Platinum plunged nearly 27% on Monday to its weakest level since 2002, while gold dived over 5% as investors unloaded precious metals in exchange for cash after a second emergency U.S. rate cut failed to quell coronavirus fears across markets.

FILE PHOTO: Newly cast ingots of 99.99 percent pure gold are stored after weighing at the Krastsvetmet non-ferrous metals plant, one of the world's largest producers in the precious metals industry, in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, November 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin

Palladium dropped 5.3% to $1,711.50 per ounce, the lowest since end-August, while silver slumped 10.9% to $13.09, a level last seen in 2009.

By 1700 GMT, platinum was down 13.2% at $661 per ounce, on track for its biggest one-day decline on record, while gold slipped 1.4% to $1,508.44 per ounce. U.S. gold futures were 0.3% lower at $1,512.50 per ounce.

“It’s the liquidity selling that continues to be the norm here,” said Ryan McKay, a commodity strategist at TD Securities. “It is similar to what happened in the financial crisis where gold actually traded quite lower for a number of months along with equities.”

Gold also broke below the 200-day moving average, which is regarded as a bearish sign.

Precious metals joined a wider market sell-off as the coronavirus continued to spread rapidly, with some investors obliged to sell assets to cover margin calls.

U.S. government bonds yields fell, stock markets tumbled and oil prices dropped 10%. [US/] [.N] [O/R]

“On top of that we have industrial components weighing on the likes of silver, platinum and palladium,” McKay said.

“In this environment, the auto market is going to be very weak as we saw in China, and industrial demand is clearly on the downside. We are looking at potential recession type environment.”

Autocatalyst metals platinum and palladium are particularly sensitive to expectations of falling car sales.

“It’s a continued hunt for cash for liquidity. Everything is being sold, market participants are throwing in the towel just leaving the exits, and when everybody wants to exit there is a massive sell-off in particular in very illiquid markets like PGMs,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said, referring to precious group metals.

The coronavirus has claimed over 6,500 lives worldwide and triggered panic across markets, prompting central banks across the globe to push through support measures to temper the economic fallout.

Central banks in Japan, Australia and New Zealand joined the U.S. Federal Reserve in announcing dramatic monetary easing in a coordinated effort not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

On the physical demand side, activity remained subdued in major Asian hubs last week due to virus outbreak, especially in the world’s biggest gold consumer, China.

Holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell to 931.59 tonnes on Friday.

Reporting by Brijesh Patel, Sumita Layek and Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang

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