PRECIOUS-Platinum takes a breather after hitting 6-1/2-year peak

    * There are signs of speculative excess in platinum- analyst
    * Benchmark U.S. yields at highest since March
    * Minutes of U.S. Fed Jan meeting due on Wednesday

 (Adds comments, updates prices)
    By Nakul Iyer
    Feb 16 - Platinum prices eased in choppy trading on Tuesday
after rallying to a near 6-1/2-year high on bets that a pick-up
in global economic activity this year would boost demand for the
industrial metal.   
    Platinum        fell 0.3% to $1,298.38 an ounce by 1246 GMT,
having earlier hit $1,336.50, its highest since September 2014.
    "Platinum's fundamentals have not yet improved... there is a
positive story coming but the market is still in a fabrication
surplus, and that's challenging price dynamics," said UBS
analyst Giovanni Staunovo.
    Prices have rallied as much as 25.1% this year, driven by
hopes that increased demand for automobiles and a push for
cleaner energy would spur demand for the metal used in
automobile catalytic converters to limit exhaust emissions.   
    "While the upswing in the platinum price was fundamentally
justified at first given its previous undervaluation and the
expectation of a renewed supply deficit, we now see signs of
speculative excess," Commerzbank analysts said in a note. 
    On the technical front, "the 14-day Relative Strength Index
(of platinum) is now in overbought territory, which should sound
alarm bells," they added.     
    Investors also kept close tabs on the potential roll-out of
Johnson & Johnson's         COVID-19 vaccine in top platinum
producer South Africa.             
    Spot palladium        slipped 0.1% to $2,385.00 an ounce,
having earlier hit a one-month high of $2,424.26.
    Spot gold        edged 0.2% lower to $1,815.80 per ounce 
pressured by higher benchmark U.S. Treasury yields.      
    Bullion is considered a hedge against inflation likely
spurred by massive stimulus, but higher yields have challenged
that status since they increase non-yielding gold's opportunity
    Real rates and inflation expectations in the United States
will remain a key driver for gold. Inflation expectations could
pick up again with rising oil and commodity prices, potentially
supporting gold, UBS' Staunovo said.
    U.S. gold futures        fell 0.4% to $1,815.70 per ounce,
while silver        was steady at $27.59. 

 (Reporting by Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru. Editing by Mark Potter
and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)