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PRECIOUS-Gold firms as dollar slides to multi-year low

 (Updates prices)
    * Dollar hits lowest level since April 2018 
    * First case of new virus variant detected in the United
States
    * Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus:
tmsnrt.rs/3mvcUoa

    By Asha Sistla
    Dec 30 (Reuters) - Gold prices edged higher on Wednesday, as
the prospect of increased fiscal aid pushed the dollar to its
lowest in more than two years, although global COVID-19 vaccine
rollouts and increased risk appetite limited bullion's gains.
    Spot gold        rose 0.7% to $1,890.61 per ounce by 1:47
p.m. EST (1847 GMT). U.S. gold futures        settled up 0.6% at
$1,893.40.
    "The U.S. dollar index touched a new low - that's working in
favour of the gold and silver markets," said Kitco Metals senior
analyst Jim Wyckoff.
    "However, upbeat risk appetite in the market place, evident
by stock indexes at or near record highs is tempering buying
enthusiasm. You've got this tug and pull at work right now."
    The dollar index        touched a low since April 2018
following U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's decision
to delay a vote on increasing COVID-19 relief checks to $2,000.
                   
    U.S. stocks rose on hopes of additional fiscal stimulus and
on optimism over vaccine rollouts, as Britain became the first
country to approve a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca        
and Oxford University.                  
    "The bigger picture is that gold is still holding up
incredibly well at these price levels and the fiscal and
monetary stimulus will still be there in 2021 as the pandemic is
hitting hard in the U.S., Europe," said Bank of China
International analyst Xiao Fu.
    Investors await the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff elections that
will determine which political party will control the U.S.
Senate, with expectations for more stimulus under a
Democrat-controlled Senate and House.             
    Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation and currency
debasement likely to result from large stimulus measures.
    Among other precious metals, silver        rose 1.1% to
$26.46 an ounce, platinum        gained 1.5% to $1,065.26 and
palladium        climbed 1.9% to $2,371.25.

 (Reporting by Asha Sistla in Bengaluru; editing by Barbara
Lewis, Chris Reese and Diane Craft)
  
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