PRECIOUS-Gold flat amid doubts about increased U.S. pandemic aid checks

    Dec 30 (Reuters) - Gold prices were little changed on
Wednesday as investors weighed news that U.S. Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell postponed a vote on increased pandemic
aid checks to individuals. 

    * Spot gold        was steady at $1,877.76 per ounce by 0043
GMT. U.S. gold futures        fell 0.1% to $1,881.50.
    * McConnell on Tuesday delayed a vote on President Donald
Trump's demand to increase COVID-19 relief checks to $2,000, in
a rare challenge to his fellow Republican three weeks before he
vacates the White House.             
    * But Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the $600
stimulus checks that are part of a $2.3 trillion package signed
into law last week would begin as soon as Tuesday evening.
    * Gold has benefited from massive stimulus rolled out to
stem the economic impact of the pandemic as it is seen as a
hedge against inflation and currency debasement.    
   * Lending some support to the metal, the U.S. dollar hovered
close to a 2-1/2-year trough against rival currencies.         
   * Meanwhile, vaccine rollouts in Europe gathered pace with
the European Union set to buy an extra 100 million doses of
Pfizer         and BioNTech's            COVID-19 vaccine.
    * Coronavirus cases continue to soar globally, with Britain
reporting the highest number of new infections since mass
testing began in mid-2020, while the first case of a new
infectious virus variant was found in the United States.
   * The U.S. Federal Reserve extended the end date for its Main
Street Lending Programme by eight days to process a rush of
applications submitted since the Trump administration ended the
central bank's emergency credit facility.               
   * Silver        fell 0.2% to $26.14 an ounce. Platinum       
rose 0.1% to $1,050.70 and palladium        gained 0.4% to
0700  UK  Dec. Nationwide House Price

 (Reporting by Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu