ETF Securities Research Blog

Can palladium turn from laggard to leader?

If being a contrarian investor is appealing, palladium should be the new go-to precious metal of choice. In terms of where investors have flocked, gold and silver have been courted at the expense of platinum group metals. Palladium in particular has been ignored.

While low prices and heightened economic uncertainty have justifiably seen investors brace portfolios with the defensive properties that gold and silver offer, investor positioning is stretched. Futures market positioning for both gold and silver are hovering over two standard deviations above the respective five year averages. Indeed, both gold and silver net long speculative positioning is at the highest level on record (data commenced in 1994).

palladium positioning

Platinum futures positioning is at the highest since August 2014, while palladium positioning is plumbing historical depths. Net speculative positioning reached the second lowest level in April 2016 since September 2008 (the lowest level was reached in March 2016). While sentiment has begun to rebound (largely due to short covering – longs still haven’t broken a multi-year downtrend), there is plenty of room to move. Exchange traded product flows (ETP) also highlight the laggard nature of palladium, with palladium the only ETP experiencing outflows in 2016.

Palladium, like platinum, has been in a supply deficit for the past four years and another deficit is expected in 2016. Although large above ground stocks persist, further supply off-take resulting from South African wage negotiations should see the price rally continue. Moreover, auto applications accounting for 69% of demand, automotive market strength will see the market tighten further. Although growth has plateaued, car registrations remain robust, rising 4% in the US, and Chinese registrations have posted growth of over 6% in the year to April, respectively.

Palladium also shows the weakest price growth in 2016, with gains of 9.4%, compared to 20+% gains for the other precious metals. Consensus expectations for prices in the precious metals sector indicate that palladium looks the likely outperformer – Bloomberg survey forecasts indicate around a 9% rally by year-end 2016 for palladium, with all other precious metals expected to decline.