Palladium, other metals fall on inflation fears

AP News
Posted: Feb 23, 2011 4:37 PM
Palladium, other metals fall on inflation fears

Palladium and other metals fell Wednesday as skyrocketing oil prices renewed worries about inflation hurting sales of automobiles and other products in fast-growing countries.

China, India and other nations are trying to rein in inflation that has been caused in part by higher prices for commodities such as food and oil.

Traders are worried inflation may force consumers in those countries to conserve spending on automobiles and other products to pay for essential items. That could hurt demand for metals.

Meanwhile, oil hit $100 a barrel as violent clashes continued in Libya, creating uncertainty about whether the region's oil supplies may be disrupted.

Barclays Capital estimated as much as 1 million barrels of daily oil production has been shut down in Libya as a result of the unrest. Libya produced almost 1.7 million barrels per day of oil and natural gas liquids in January, according to the International Energy Agency.

The IEA and Saudi Arabia both have pledged to make additional oil available to cover any shortfall in world supplies.

"With the global uncertainty, there would be a slowdown in demand for palladium," Lind-Waldock senior market strategist Phillip Streible said.

Palladium and platinum are used in automobile catalytic converters while copper can be found in an array of products from construction materials to electronics.

In contracts for March delivery, palladium fell $31.15, or 3.9 percent, to settle at $774.55 an ounce and copper lost 7.15 cents to $4.2755 a pound. April platinum fell $9.60 to settle at $1,776.70 an ounce.

Precious metals continued to rally on their appeal as relatively safe assets to hold. Gold for April delivery rose $12.90 to settle at $1,414 an ounce and March silver added 43.6 cents to $33.298 an ounce.

In other trading, benchmark oil for March delivery hit $100 a barrel in intraday trading before settling at $98.10 per barrel, up $2.68. It was the first time prices climbed as high as $100 a barrel since Oct. 2, 2008.

In other Nymex trading in March contracts, heating oil rose 11.31 cents to settle at $2.9166 per gallon and gasoline gained 12.13 cents to $2.8677 per gallon. Natural gas added 2.9 cents to settle at $3.936 per 1,000 cubic feet.

In agricultural contracts for March, wheat rose 2.5 cents to settle at $7.9825 a bushel, corn gained 12 cents to $7.0225 a bushel and soybeans added 22 cents to $13.20 a bushel.