News of the Malaysia Airlines crash on the Ukraine-Russia border sent prices for precious metals skyrocketing. Gold for August delivery, currently the most actively traded contract, was up $21.10, or 1.7%, to $1304.90 a troy ounce earlier today on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Moreover, Palladium hit a new 13-year high on the Malaysia Airlines crash news, spiking another 1.5% to over $890 a troy ounce, and platinum also tacked on 1.5% to just under $1500 a troy ounce. Silver is also flying today, up a solid 2.2% to $21.23 a troy ounce.
Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine
A Malaysia Airlines passenger plane with more than 290 people aboard went down Thursday while flying close to the east Ukraine region of Donetsk. Early reports claim there were 23 Americans on board the flight. There was immediate discussion about possible causes for the plane crash given ongoing fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russia separatists. Other military planes have also been downed in the area over the last couple of days.
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Malaysia Airlines reported losing contact with Flight MH17 before noon, and that the last known position of the aircraft was over Ukraine.
Analysts point out that people frequently buy gold and other precious metals as a hedge during political or economic instability, with the idea that a “hard asset” will hold its value better.
Precious metals analysts say platinum and palladium are moving up because investors are concerned the confrontation in Ukraine could end up with Russia reducing exports of the metals, further tightening a market already stressed by a long miners’ strike in South Africa. Russia is the world’s largest palladium producer, followed closely by South Africa.
Furthermore, prices for precious metals were already up for the trading session, as investors reacted to additional American and European economic sanctions against Russia.
The U.S. ratcheted up sanctions on Wednesday against Russia over the fighting in Ukraine, imposing restrictions on state-controlled oil company Rosneft’ NK OAO (MCX:ROSN) (OTCMKTS:RNFTF) and other top firms, while the EU also took steps to tighten its sanctions against Putin’s cronies. Both U.S. and European leaders have stated that separatists in Ukraine are getting significant support from Russia, a charge consistently denied by Moscow.
Statements from precious metals traders
Precious metals traders commented on the flurry of trading action today. “Everyone just started buying gold as soon as the news hit,” said Thomas Capalbo, a broker at Newedge. “In the eyes of the market, this is the exact type of news that would make you buy gold.
“Anything that looks like it could take Russian sources off the market is going to pressure prices for platinum and palladium higher,” noted Frank McGhee, head of precious metals at Integrated Broker Services.