Palladium has posted a remarkable rally over the last three weeks, hitting a 16-year high of $928 on 9th June, which represents a 23% increase from its recent trough in April. Moreover, with platinum’s lacklustre price performance over the same period, the spread between the two fell to as low as just above $30 last Friday. Even though the rally soon lost momentum, palladium has so far managed to consolidate in the high $800s, making it by far the strongest performer in the precious metals complex.
Palladium’s robust gains year-to-date have been assisted by a severe squeeze in physical liquidity in Western terminal markets. In spite of sizeable above-ground stocks (estimated at 15.3 Moz at end- 2016), signs of market tightness have emerged since late 2016; the market has seen moves into backwardation and securing metal in the spot market has been challenging. More recently, this backwardation in the Nymex futures has deepened, while inventories at the exchange now amount to a mere 42koz, their lowest level since 2003.
We believe that the biggest reason behind such tightness has been strong speculative demand for physical metal from Asian entities. Feedback from our field trips indicates that these heavy purchases have been fuelled by bullish price expectations as well as confidence that palladium fabrication demand will continue to strengthen in the coming years. This in turn has resulted in a major shift of stocks out of Western terminal markets.
Meanwhile, as palladium prices broke out above technical resistance levels, speculative interest from short-term investors seems to have picked up notably. As of 6th June, net managed money positions in Nymex futures stood at 1.18Moz, almost double their end-2016 figure and only a fraction below the peak recorded in August 2014 (when palladium last surpassed $900).
Looking ahead, as the palladium market is forecast to remain in a sizeable deficit in the foreseeable future, further price strength seems still justified. However, given the scale of the recent rally, we would caution that the white metal is vulnerable to heavy investor profit taking. After all, despite an apparent lack of short-term physical liquidity, palladium bullion stockpiles remain ample at present. More importantly, growth in global vehicle production is likely to slow down this year. Although the notable weakness in key car markets such as the US and China in recent months has so far little dampened investor confidence in palladium, this poses a downside risk to prices.
Ongoing macroeconomic uncertainties also cannot be ignored, which could weigh on investor sentiment towards industrial metals in general. Already in the US, expectations about economic growth have been scaled back, amid growing political turmoil and disappointing macroeconomic data. Related to this, we retain the view that a correction in US equities is looking increasingly likely.
Against this backdrop, we believe that $928 may well represent the peak for 2017. In the near term, the recent pull-back in prices may well continue, before renewed strength emerges later in the year.
Moreover, given that the palladium market is far smaller and hence less liquid, this renewed strength is likely to be accompanied by continued high price volatility”.
from MasterMetals http://ift.tt/2rgSu6s