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Palladium: Still sparking

Bravo. If the much anticipated 2017 rebound in commodities was supposed to include precious metals, then so far it looks like only palladium, which is used in vehicle catalytic converters, spark plugs, surgical instruments and jewellery, got the memo. Africa accounts for around 20% of raw palladium exports and 15% of its semi-refined counterpart, with South Africa leading the way in both categories.

2015 lingers on. The current upswing to around $760/oz partly reflects the anticipated pickup in global growth this year as well as an expected jump in US infrastructure spending - even though political developments over the last few weeks have seen bets on the latter fade a little. With motor vehicle usage accounting for around 75% of demand, the metal has also been buoyed by solid global auto sales. The related 2015 emissions scandal, which saw investors shift out of platinum, which is mainly used in diesel engines, and into palladium, which is used primarily in petrol-powered vehicles, has not yet run its course. It has also been supported by rising environmental concerns about diesel engines more generally. The upshot is that despite some Trump-related slippage over the last month, further price rises throughout 2017 look assured.

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