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PRECIOUS-Platinum hits 6-year peak; gold gains as dollar stumbles

    * China's auto sales surged 30% in Jan
    * Dollar index at two-week low
    * U.S. Fed Chair speech at 1900 GMT, CPI data at 1330 GMT

 (Adds comments, updates prices)
    By Nakul Iyer
    Feb 10 (Reuters) - Platinum prices rallied to their highest
in six years on Wednesday as economic recovery hopes boosted
demand for the auto-catalyst metal, while U.S. stimulus
expectations and a softer dollar supported gold.
    Platinum        rose 4.2% to $1,224.46 as of 1257 GMT,
having earlier hit its highest since February 2015 at $1,234.35.
    "Platinum's fundamentals are attractive with the metal being
in a deficit for some years," said Ross Norman, an independent
analyst, forecasting the industrial metal to average $1,316 an
ounce this year.   
    Norman added that there are risks to the upside from
potential supply issues in South Africa, which faces chronic
shortage of electricity that mines need to produce the metal.
    Analysts noted last month's 30% year-on-year surge in auto
sales in China, the world's biggest market, stoked demand for
platinum in automobile catalytic converters that are designed to
limit exhaust fumes.              
    Spot gold        meanwhile was up 0.1% to $1,837.96 per
ounce by 1257 GMT, while U.S. gold futures        gained 0.2% to
$1,838.40.
    The dollar        dropped to a two-week low against rivals
on Wednesday.       
    "Inflation fears are emerging, especially in the U.S with
the stimulus intended to pass...(Fears are) that this would be
too much and spark inflation going forward,"  said Quantitative
Commodity Research analyst Peter Fertig.
    The U.S. Congress is expected to pass a $1.9 trillion
coronavirus relief bill, with President Joe Biden saying he had
been in touch with Republican leaders who opposed the size of
the package.             
    Stimulus prospects were further aided by a budget outline
approved by the Democrats last week allowing them to pass the
package without Republican support.
    Market participants awaited U.S. January Consumer Price
Index data due at 1330 GMT as well as Federal Reserve Chairman
Jerome Powell's speech before a virtual Economic Club of New
York event at 1900 GMT.              
    Spot silver        fell 0.1% to $27.17, while palladium
       climbed 1.5% to $2,353.99.

 (Reporting by Nakul Iyer and Sumita Layek in Bengaluru; Editing
by Mark Potter/Mark Heinrich)
  
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