* Palladium hits peak of $1,608/oz
* Platinum on the cusp of recovery -technicals
* Gold climbs to a near three-week high of $1,315.61/oz
* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl (Adds comment, updates prices)
By Karthika Suresh Namboothiri
March 20 (Reuters) - Palladium hit an all-time high on Wednesday on concerns over tight supplies of the autocatalyst metal, while gold reversed course to rise after the U.S. Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged.
Spot palladium rose 0.6 percent to $1,605.51 per ounce as of 2:25 p.m. EDT (1825 GMT), having earlier touched a record high of $1,608.
Palladium is extensively used in the making of catalytic converters in vehicles and has benefited from a switch away from diesel engines and demand for hybrid electric vehicles.
“Europe came up with stringent environmental demand and environmental initiatives while we have supply issues from South Africa and Russia,” said Eli Tesfaye, senior market strategist for brokerage RJO Futures in Chicago.
“There is now talk about using substitutes, such as platinum, which has come up higher as palladium gets more and more expensive.”
A possible temporary export ban on precious metal scrap from Russia and hopes of economic stimulus from China rubbing off on industrial metals has helped lift prices. This year alone, spot prices have jumped over 26 percent.
Platinum rose 2.2 percent to $864.25 per ounce, after surging 3 percent on Tuesday on increased demand for the closest substitute to expensive palladium’s industrial properties.
Investor flows into physically backed platinum exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and a sharp drop in speculative bets on lower prices suggest platinum is on the cusp of recovery.
Meanwhile, spot gold swung into positive territory after the Fed announced it will not hike interest rates this year.
Gold climbed 0.7 percent to $1,315.50 per ounce, having risen to nearly three-week high of $1,315.61.
The Fed’s decision would be helpful to precious metals since the cost of borrowing is going to be benign, so they will have less competition from higher yields, said George Gero, managing director at RBC Wealth Management.
“On the other hand, if inflation seems benign, gold may continue to do well, but not extra well.”
Gold is highly sensitive to rising interest rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion. They also boost the dollar, in which the metal is priced.
The dollar fell against a basket of currencies lending further support to gold.
Meanwhile, U.S. gold futures settled down 0.4 percent at $1,301.7 per ounce.
Silver was up 1.1 percent at $15.51 per ounce.
Reporting by Karthika Suresh Namboothiri and Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru Editing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Chang