March 16, 2020 / 3:36 PM / 22 days ago

PRECIOUS-Platinum slumps to lowest since 2002 as precious metals collapse

(Updates prices)

* Platinum on track for worst day on record

* Silver hits lowest since 2009, palladium weakest since end-Aug

* Fed slashes rates for second time this year

By Brijesh Patel

March 16 (Reuters) - Platinum plunged nearly 27% on Monday to its weakest level since 2002, while gold dived over 5% as investors unloaded precious metals in exchange for cash after a second emergency U.S. rate cut failed to quell coronavirus fears across markets.

Palladium dropped 11% to $1,609.45 per ounce, having hit its lowest since end-August at $1,481.53. Silver slumped 12.5% to $12.84 after touching $11.76, a level last seen in 2009.

By 2:11 p.m. EDT (1811 GMT), platinum was down 13.7% at $656.98 per ounce, on track for its biggest one-day decline on record, while gold slipped 2.6% to $1,490.01. U.S. gold futures settled 2% lower at $1,486.5.

“It’s the liquidity selling that continues to be the norm here,” said Ryan McKay, a commodity strategist at TD Securities. “It is similar to what happened in the financial crisis where gold actually traded quite lower for a number of months along with equities.”

Gold also broke below the 200-day moving average, which is regarded as a bearish sign.

Precious metals joined a wider market sell-off as the coronavirus continued to spread rapidly, with some investors obliged to sell assets to cover margin calls.

“It’s a continued hunt for cash for liquidity. Everything is being sold, market participants are throwing in the towel just leaving the exits,” Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said.

U.S. government bonds yields fell, stock markets tumbled and oil prices plunged.

“On top of that we have industrial components weighing on the likes of silver, platinum and palladium,” McKay said.

“In this environment, the auto market is going to be very weak as we saw in China, and industrial demand is clearly on the downside. We are looking at potential recession type environment.”

Autocatalyst metals platinum and palladium are particularly sensitive to expectations of falling car sales.

The coronavirus has claimed over 6,500 lives worldwide and triggered panic across markets, prompting central banks across the globe to push through support measures to temper the economic fallout.

Central banks in Japan, Australia and New Zealand joined the U.S. Federal Reserve in announcing dramatic monetary easing in a coordinated effort not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

On the physical demand side, activity remained subdued in major Asian hubs due to virus outbreak, especially in the world’s biggest gold consumer, China.

Holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, fell to 931.59 tonnes on Friday.

Reporting by Brijesh Patel, Sumita Layek and Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Chang

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