* Liquidity in gold market light due to Lunar New Year holiday

* CME raises platinum futures margins by 10%

* Platinum set to reach $1,300/oz by end-2021 -Citi (Adds analyst comments, details and updates prices)

Feb 11 (Reuters) – Platinum prices rose to their highest in more than six years on Thursday, extending a solid run on market hopes that an economic recovery would boost demand from the automobile sector.

Platinum rose 1.3% to $1,257.51 an ounce by 1043 GMT, having earlier jumped as much as 2.2% to its highest since January 2015. Palladium also firmed 0.2% to $2,361.04 per ounce, not far from a near three-week high hit on Wednesday.

Both metals are used by automakers in catalytic converters to clean car exhaust fumes.

“The market has been looking beyond the pandemic – to a recovery in the auto sector, which will eventually happen,” said StoneX analyst Rhona O’Connell.

The market will draw support from potential demand for fuel cells, with the Johnson Matthey report also talking about increased loadings, particularly for diesel vehicles, O’Connell said.

Platinum may see a third consecutive annual deficit in 2021, specialist materials firm Johnson Matthey said in a report released on Wednesday.

Potential concerns about mining production in South Africa still remain, even as fuel cell vehicles are set to become mainstream, with Hyundai Motor Group hiking their demand for platinum-based fuel cell stacks, O’Connell said.

Citi Research analysts said they expected platinum prices to “grind higher through 2021 to $1,300 an ounce by the end of the year,” on a rebound in industrial and investment demand.

Meanwhile, the CME Group raised margins for platinum futures by 10%. This is a typical move by exchanges to mitigate risks as price volatility increases.

Spot gold edged 0.1% lower to $1,841.28 per ounce. U.S. gold futures were trading flat at $1,842.90.

Spot silver rose 0.5% to $27.13 an ounce.

“Low liquidity due to Chinese new year holiday is weighing on prices,” said DailyFX strategist Margaret Yang.

Investors also kept a close watch on developments on the passage of a $1.9 trillion U.S. stimulus bill.

Reporting by Asha Sistla and Sumita Layek in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Nakul Iyer; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips



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