For Clues About Palladium, Look to… North Macedonia? – by David Fickling (Bloomberg/Yahoo Finance – January 20, 2020)

(Bloomberg Opinion) — “The Balkans” — according to remark often attributed to Winston Churchill — “produce more history than they can consume.” Precious-metal traders betting on the record surge in palladium prices might want to draw a similar lesson.

That’s because production and consumption of palladium and its sister-metal platinum in one tiny Balkan state are giving crucial clues to the way producers of automobile catalytic converters use the two elements. This in turn is likely to affect the path of prices for both metals.

As we’ve written, there are strong fundamental underpinnings to the extraordinary rally that’s seen palladium prices increase nearly fivefold in the past four years, at a time when platinum is up a mere 25%. Both metals have extensive industrial uses in the converters that strip carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides from car exhausts.

Supply and demand dynamics have conspired recently to push up palladium prices at the expense of platinum. Sales of new diesel cars, which tend to use more platinum, have been hit by the aftermath of the diesel emissions-testing scandal, putting the preponderance of demand on palladium-heavy gasoline vehicles.

At the same time, South Africa’s platinum-mining industry has been struggling with low profitability, which has helped to keep supply of its palladium byproduct back from the market. Meanwhile, vehicle-emissions standards have been tightening in Europe, China and other countries, increasing demand for catalysts to clear up exhaust fumes.

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