PRECIOUS-Palladium breaches $1,550/oz as supply fears grow; gold steadies – by Arijit Bose and Eileen Soreng (Reuters U.K. – February 26, 2019)

Feb 26 (Reuters) – Palladium broke past $1,550 an ounce for the first time on Tuesday on the back of intensifying supply deficit, while gold steadied after U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell reiterated the central bank’s patient stance in further rate hikes.

Spot palladium soared to $1,565.09 per ounce earlier in the day, and was up 0.9 percent at $1,555 by 2:25 p.m. EST (1925 GMT).

“Palladium is up based on the fact that there are 15 mining firms in South Africa, that could go on strike this week,” Bob Haberkorn, senior market strategist at RJO Futures.

The news of South African mining firms receiving notices of strikes to be held next week aggravated supply concerns in an already tight market, with prices soaring more than 23 percent so far this year.

The world’s largest palladium producer, Norilsk Nickel , on Tuesday said tighter emissions regulations in all major markets and flattish primary supply would widen the autocatalyst metal’s deficit in 2019.

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