February 25, 2019 / 4:33 PM / 3 months ago

PRECIOUS-Palladium hits record high on strike threat; gold steady

(Updates prices)

* Trump delays tariff hike on Chinese goods

* Palladium peaks at $1,536.50/oz

* Platinum hits three-month high

* GRAPHIC-2019 asset returns: tmsnrt.rs/2jvdmXl

By Sumita Layek

Feb 25 (Reuters) - Palladium hit a new record high on Monday as the threat of strikes in the South African mining industry raised fresh concerns about a supply deficit for the metal, while gold held steady as the dollar slipped on signs of a U.S.-China trade deal.

Palladium hit a peak of $1,536.50 per ounce, and was up 2.5 percent at $1,534.50 by 1:55 p.m. EST (1855 GMT), with the autocatalyst metal having soared more than 80 percent since mid-August on a sustained supply shortage.

At least 15 mining firms in South Africa, home to the world's biggest platinum group metals deposits accounting for over 90 percent of global output, have received notices of strikes next week in support of colleagues at Sibanye-Stillwater who downed tools over wages and job cuts.

"The fundamental issue with palladium is any strike will drive prices through the roof because there is a shortfall with normal production, so any collapse of production will support prices," said Miguel Perez-Santalla, vice president of Heraeus Metal Management in New York.

"The threat of the South African mines strike spreading to the platinum mining industry is enough to make people nervous and that's why we're seeing some short-covering in platinum and palladium, driving both the metals higher."

Platinum, which briefly touched its highest since Nov. 20 at $853.50, rose 0.9 percent to $848 an ounce.

Meanwhile, spot gold was steady at $1,327.28 an ounce and U.S. gold futures settled down 0.2 percent at $1,329.5.

Spot silver was down 0.2 percent to $15.88 an ounce.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said he was optimistic a final trade deal could be reached with China and that he would hold a summit to sign any pact, after announcing on Sunday he would delay an increase in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

"Much of last year, we saw the dollar benefiting from safe haven flows and gold was suffering because of the dollar's strength. With the easing of the trade tensions, gold prices are likely to benefit," said Suki Cooper, precious metals analyst at Standard Chartered Bank.

"The dollar at the margins has certainly helped provide a boost to gold."

The dollar fell against a basket of other currencies as risk sentiment improved, pushing global equities higher, on signs of a thaw in the trade dispute.

Going forward, it remains to be seen "if capital begins to switch out of the metals into the equity space," Peter Hug, global trading director at Kitco Metals, said in a note.

Investors were now eyeing a testimony by U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday and Wednesday for further cues on U.S. monetary tightening.

Reporting by Sumita Layek and Eileen Soreng in Bengaluru Editing by Marguerita Choy and Tom Brown

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