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PRECIOUS-Gold rises on U.S. stimulus hopes; Fed verdict awaited

 (Updates prices)
    * U.S Fed policy statement due at 1900 GMT
    * Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus:
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    By Shreyansi Singh
    Dec 16 (Reuters) - Gold prices nudged higher on Wednesday on
expectations for more support for the U.S. economy and a dovish
stance from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
    Spot gold        rose 0.1% to $1,855.80 an ounce by 1:44
p.m. EST (1844 GMT), after touching its highest since Dec. 9 at
$1,865.50. U.S. gold futures        settled up 0.2% to
$1,859.10.
    "The market has been caught between the optimism around 
vaccine developments and concerns around rising (COVID-19)
infection rates," Standard Chartered analyst Suki Cooper said,
adding that the focus was on the FOMC meeting, Brexit and the
U.S. stimulus negotiations.
    Leading U.S. lawmakers reported substantial progress in
hammering out COVID-19 relief aid as pressure mounted amid a
surge in coronavirus cases in the world's hardest hit country.
                         
    "The dollar weakness and dovish expectations for the FOMC
meeting have buoyed gold prices," Cooper said. 
    The Federal Reserve was due to provide a playbook for its
economic policy with policymakers set to conclude the final
meeting of the year with investors expecting near zero interest
rates and more bond-buying.                          
    Capping bullion's gains, Moderna Inc's          COVID-19
vaccine seemed set for regulatory approval this week after the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff endorsed it as safe and
effective.             
    "More good news on the vaccine front has the capacity to
dampen gold's comeback," HSBC analyst James Steel said in a
note.
    Gold has risen more than 22% so far this year, banking on
its appeal as a hedge against inflation likely due to the
unprecedented stimulus unleashed in 2020. 
    Among other precious metals, silver        gained 1.9% to
$24.93 an ounce, and platinum        fell 0.9% to $1,027.15.
    Palladium        rose 0.6% to $2,332.23. 
    "Unless the current wave of infections derails the global
economy, recovering industrial production may further boost
silver and the PGMs (platinum group metals)," Steel added in the
note.

 (Reporting by Shreyansi Singh in Bengaluru
Editing by Mark Heinrich, Kirsten Donovan)
  
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