When it comes to precious metals, gold and silver typically garner all of the market’s attention. Not many investors are focused on platinum and even less keep up with palladium. But over the last few years, palladium has outperformed its precious metals counterparts despite remaining under the radar of many investors.
Palladium: Behind the Curtain
For starters, many investors know little about palladium and its practical uses. The white metal is most often found in catalytic converters, an emission control device found on almost all automobiles. It also finds its way into electronics (most often in capacitors), jewelry, and photography.
As an investment, palladium often gets no love from the market. The metal is closely tied to the health of the industrials sector, but it’s not as good of an inflation hedge as silver or gold. It is also not as rare as platinum (and it could be argued that platinum has more prevalent uses), which usually ranks palladium as the least popular precious metal. But regardless of its popularity, palladium has been charging higher for some time, leaving its peers in the dust [see also Ultimate Guide To Palladium Investing].
Palladium's Strong Returns
The years have been kind to palladium, especially 2014, when it pulled away from its peers. One of the biggest reasons that palladium outperformed was due to mining troubles in South Africa, where a lion’s share of the commodity is mined. Strikes and supply issues helped palladium spike in 2014 (and somewhat skew its three-year return) above its precious metals peers.
Interestingly enough, much of the world’s platinum comes from South African mines, but that commodity did not see a similar movement in 2014. Moving forward, it is difficult to say whether palladium can continue to outperform, but thus far it seems like that answer is no. The temporary boost last year was big for anyone who held a long position in the commodity, but the boost appears to be only temporary.
Thus far in 2015, gold has been the best performing precious metal (though all four have negative returns), while palladium has been slipping. With both platinum and palladium, price movements are heavily tied to mining production and industrial demand; they both tend to have big peaks and troughs depending on those two conditions. Gold and silver, however, are seen more as safe havens and inflation hedges than industrial products, typically giving them very different returns.
The Bottom Line
Palladium, like almost all commodities, tends to jostle back forth over the long-term. The best way to take advantage of these movements as an investor is to watch the key price drivers for each hard asset and catch big news before it translates into major movements. As always, keeping a close eye on the market is the best way to ensure you are making sound investments.
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.