PRECIOUS-Silver soars to 8-year peak as investors keep up feverish buying

* Excessive price rise can hamper physical demand – analyst

* Chinese investors jump on silver

* India slashes import tax on gold, silver by 5%

* Gold-silver ratio falls to multi-year low (Adds analyst comment, updates prices)

Feb 1 (Reuters) – Silver extended its blistering rally for a third session on Monday, soaring as much as 11.2% to a near eight-year high as retail investors piled into the metal in a frenzy kicked off by U.S. social media users last week.

Spot silver jumped 8.4% to $29.26 an ounce by 1144 GMT, having earlier hit its highest since February 2013 at $30.03.

Silver has gained nearly 19% since Thursday when posts began circulating on Reddit urging small-time investors to buy silver mining stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETF) backed by physical silver bars, in a GameStop-style squeeze.

“It’s hard to say how far this can go. It’s all about momentum; if the futures market also gets behind this move, they could add fuel to the fire, so the New York open would be very interesting,” said Ross Norman, an independent analyst.

Commerzbank analyst Eugen Weinberg said in a note that in the medium term, any excessive price rise is harmful for silver as it can damage physical demand.

“On the other hand, however, it results in silver being increasingly viewed as an investment metal,” he added.

Data from iShares Silver Trust ETF, the largest silver-backed ETF, showed its silver holdings jumped by a record 37 million shares from Thursday to Friday alone, each representing an ounce of silver.

Spot gold jumped 0.7% to $1,859.46 per ounce, while U.S. gold futures were up 0.7% to $1,862.50.

Experts caution that gold’s relatively subdued performance suggests that silver’s rally may not last long. An ounce of gold currently buys 63.5 ounces of silver, compared to 73.3 ounces on Jan. 25.

“Silver has been the ‘forgotten’ precious metal for a long time and the market attention it is receiving highlights silver’s historically low price vs. gold,” said Gregor Gregersen, founder of Silver Bullion Pte Ltd. calling the recent social-media driven frenzy, a “welcome demand catalyst.”

“Given the gold-silver ratio is at a multi-year low, we see limited room for further outperformance of silver,” said Soni Kumari, commodity strategist with ANZ.

Platinum rose 4% to $1,115.55 and palladium gained 1.6% to $2,261.23.

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