Palladium prices have hit the highest level in nearly three months on expectations that new car demand will continue to improve.
Palladium for March delivery rose $14.55 to end Wednesday at $685.45 an ounce. The price has risen 20 percent in the last eight trading sessions but remains 14.7 percent down for the year.
U.S. automobile industry sales rose 14 percent in November, according to Autodata Corp. Car companies expect sales to continue to improve as people who delayed purchases during the recession decide to buy a new car or truck.
In addition, initial reports from China show strong auto sales in November, Barclays Capital analysts said in a note Wednesday.
The improvement in sales has helped insulate palladium from investor fears about Europe's financial crisis which have hurt other commodities, R.J. O'Brien senior commodities broker Phillip Streible said.
European leaders are scheduled to gather at a summit later this week to discuss the best way to resolve the debt problems and restore confidence in the euro. Investors are hoping they will agree to impose greater fiscal discipline on heavily indebted nations like Greece but there has been some disagreement over the best way to solve the problems.
"These discussions are causing the market to be very sensitive," Streible said. Investors, he added, seemed to be "holding on to each and every word."
Metals were mostly lower. Gold for February delivery rose $13 to end at $1,744.80 an ounce. March silver fell 11.7 cents to finish at $32.627 an ounce, March copper fell 1.95 cents to $3.556 a pound and January platinum fell $2 to $1,522 an ounce.
In other trading, oil prices fell after the government said supplies grew unexpectedly as demand grew weaker for gasoline and other petroleum products. Benchmark crude fell 79 cents to end at $100.49 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Heating oil fell 3.93 cents to end at $2.9824 per gallon, gasoline futures fell 5.85 cents to $2.5869 per gallon and natural gas fell 6.6 cents to $3.421 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Wheat for March delivery fell 12.5 cents to finish at $6.005 per bushel, March corn fell 3.75 cents to $5.9275 per bushel and January soybeans rose 1.5 cents to $11.31 per bushel.