A week ago, palladium prices rocketed to an all-time high near $1,600 per ounce as global markets feared a shortage.
The precious metal, which is used primarily in catalytic converters to clean automobile exhaust, has been seeing increasing demand due to environmental concerns in Europe and China. Meanwhile, global supplies have been dwindling, and fears hit panic levels a week ago after top-exporter Russia announced that it may begin to restrict its sales.
Palladium had nearly doubled in price since last summer and showed no signs of slowing down — until this past week when the price abruptly collapsed by more than $200.
Some attributed the selloff to profit-taking, as well as concerns that Chinese auto demand could waver this year. Longer term, the shift to electric cars, which don’t need catalytic converters, could eliminate much of the demand for the metal.
For the time being, the world is still primarily using gasoline-powered cars with catalytic convertors, setting up an ongoing saga for investors in this rare metal, which was worth $1,340 on Friday.
Up to our ears?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture released its newest crop outlook Monday, and it showed that U.S. farmers are rushing to plant corn this spring instead of less-profitable crops.
While all agricultural markets have been hurt by the ongoing trade war with China, corn has weathered the storm better, because very little U.S. corn is sold to China. Other crops like soybeans, cotton, and sorghum all depend on Chinese demand and have seen prices drop as purchases dried up during the last year.
U.S. farmers are expected to plant 92.8 million acres of corn this year, up from 89.1 million acres last year. Meanwhile, the USDA also showed stockpiles of corn left over from last year’s harvest to be higher than expected, sitting at 8.6 billion bushes as of March 1. These current big supplies and prospect for a bigger harvest this fall caused markets to tumble to new contract lows, with May corn futures dropping more than 17 cents to trade at $3.57 per bushel Friday.