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PRECIOUS-Platinum scales 6-year peak, palladium jumps on auto-recovery bets

    * Faltering dollar props up gold; silver slips
    * Autocatalysts to see supply deficits in 2021–Johnson
Matthey 
    * U.S. Fed Chair speech at 1900 GMT

 (Updates prices)
    By Eileen Soreng
    Feb 10 (Reuters) - Platinum raced to a six-year peak while
palladium jumped over 3% on Wednesday on hopes of a fillip to
demand from the automobile sector as the economy recovers, with
supply likely to remain strained.
    Platinum        climbed 5.3% to $1,237.45 per ounce by 1:41
p.m. EST (1841 GMT), having earlier hit its highest since
February 2015 at $1,250.00.
    "We're expecting demand for autos to increase globally as we
move into a recovery phase," said Bart Melek, head of commodity
strategies at TD Securities, adding higher standards for
pollution control will require more of the metal.             
    Palladium        rose as much as 3.1%, and was last up 1.4%
at $2,351.59.
    The market also took cues from a report by specialist
materials company Johnson Matthey         , which said both
metals, used in catalytic converters to clean car exhaust fumes,
could see supply shortfalls this year.              
    Spot gold        meanwhile, rose 0.3% to $1,842.66. U.S.
gold futures        settled up 0.3% at $1,842.70.
    The dollar        fell on data pointing to benign U.S.
inflation in January.                          
    "Gold's in a bit of tug of war," said ED&F Man Capital
Markets analyst Edward Meir, adding that while the weaker dollar
is bullish, there are expectations that a big U.S. stimulus
package may eventually lead to higher interest rates, which will
increase the opportunity cost of holding bullion. 
    The U.S. Congress is expected to pass a $1.9 trillion relief
bill.             
    Silver       , however, eased 0.6% to $27.05 an ounce. 
    A retail frenzy last week had driven silver up to as high as
$30.03, before a sharp retreat. Analysts projected strong demand
for silver this year, given its industrial applications,
including solar cells.  
    "People are now trading silver very cautiously given the 
volatility, and they need something more clear from Powell
before resuming the upside," said Bob Haberkorn, senior market
strategist at RJO Futures.
    Markets are awaiting policy cues from Fed Chairman Jerome
Powell's speech at a virtual event at 1900 GMT.             

 (Reporting by Eileen Soreng and Arpan Varghese in Bengaluru;
Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Marguerita Choy)
  
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