PRECIOUS-Gold on course for best year in a decade

    Dec 31 (Reuters) - Gold edged higher on Thursday, heading
for its best year in a decade, as a weaker U.S. dollar
outweighed pressure from a top Republican lawmaker's remark that
a bill to increase U.S. pandemic aid checks was unlikely to get
Senate approval soon.  

    * Spot gold        rose 0.1% to $1,894.66 per ounce by 0103
GMT. U.S. gold futures        climbed 0.3% to $1,899.10.
    * In a blow to U.S. President Donald Trump's demand for an
increase in coronavirus relief checks to $2,000, Republican
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell refused a quick vote on
the bill, saying it had "no realistic path to quickly pass the
    * Gold has risen more than 24% this year, its best since
2010, as unprecedented stimulus measures and low-interest rates
to cushion economies from the pandemic's blow boosted the
non-yielding metal's appeal as an inflation hedge and a safe
   * Bolstering the metal's appeal to other currency holders on
Thursday, the dollar edged lower and hit its lowest since April
    * A highly infectious coronavirus variant originating in
Britain continued to spread globally, with California reporting
its first known case.                         
    * In a bid to help contain the fast-spreading pandemic,
Britain on Wednesday became the first country to approve a
vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca        .
   * British lawmakers approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's
post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union on Wednesday, as
both sides looked to begin a new chapter of relations just days
before their divorce becomes a reality.               
   * Silver        fell 0.3% to $26.54 an ounce. Platinum       
gained 0.1% to $1,066.91  and palladium        was up 0.2% at
1330  U.S. Weekly Initial Jobless Claims    

 (Reporting by Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu