* Graphic: 2021 asset performance tmsnrt.rs/2yaDPgn
* Gold, silver on course for best month since December 2020 (Updates prices)
April 30 (Reuters) - Palladium on Friday raced past the $3,000-an-ounce mark for the first time, fuelled by concerns about a shortage of the metal which is embedded in automobile exhausts to reduce emissions.
Palladium hit a record high of $3,007.73 earlier in the session and was steady at $2,952.69 by 1:55 p.m. (1755 GMT).
Prices have shot up more than 20% since March 16 when Russia’s Nornickel, the top producer, announced that flooding at two of its mines would reduce output.
“You have auto industry buying more palladium, the electronics industry buying more palladium and hence a tight market,” said Jeffrey Christian, managing partner of CPM Group.
“It’s primarily a speculative surge in demand, and that can go on for a long period of time and keep prices elevated,” he added.
Demand from the auto industry could climb further as a semiconductor chip shortage that has curtailed production eases later this year.
Commerzbank analyst Carsten Fritsch said prices were unlikely to remain above $3,000 and would begin to fall as automakers switch from palladium to cheaper platinum.
“At this (price) level, more and more car manufacturers will think about substitution,” he said.
Tighter environmental rules have forced automakers to use more palladium in gasoline engines in recent years, but substitution and a shift to electric vehicles may eventually erode demand.
Meanwhile, spot gold dipped 0.1% to $1,769.86 per ounce as the dollar firmed, making bullion more expensive for buyers holding other currencies.
U.S. gold futures settled little changed at $1767.7.
“Right now there is an increase in investor and consumer confidence in the state of the world and in the state of the U.S. economy, and therefore the state of the dollar,” CPM Group’s Christian said.
Gold has risen 3.7% this month, its first monthly gain this year.
Silver fell 0.8% to $25.88 per ounce, but is up 6% in April - its biggest monthly gain since December.
Platinum was flat at $1,198.00 per ounce.
Reporting by Eileen Soreng, Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru, Peter Hobson in London Additional reporting by Arpan Varghese Editing by Paul Simao, Kirsten Donovan and Toby Chopra