PRECIOUS-Gold hits near 4-week high as dollar retreats, demand surges

* SPDR gold holdings down about 14 pct since U.S. elections
    * Dollar index stays below 14-year highs
    * Platinum, palladium rise to fresh multiweek highs

 (Updates prices; adds comment, byline, NEW YORK dateline)
    By Marcy Nicholson and Clara Denina 
    NEW YORK/LONDON, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Gold rose to the highest
in nearly four weeks on Wednesday as the dollar edged back from
a 14-year peak and physical demand from major consumers China
and India increased.
    Spot gold climbed to its highest since Dec. 9 at
$1,167.83 an ounce and was up 0.2 percent at $1,161.2 by 2:49
p.m. EST (1949 GMT). 
    U.S. gold futures settled up 0.3 percent at
    "The dollar index has consolidated and the big outflow from
exchange-traded products (ETPs), which has been the biggest
headwind for gold in the past few months, has stopped recently,"
said Julius Baer analyst Carsten Menke.
    Holdings of the SPDR Gold Trust, the world's largest
gold-backed exchange-traded fund, dropped 1 percent to 813.87
tonnes on Tuesday. Holdings are down about 14 percent since the
U.S. presidential election in November. 
    The dollar index retreated from its highest level
since late 2002, a level reached after U.S. manufacturing data
beat expectations on Tuesday.  
    A weaker dollar increases demand for commodities priced in
the greenback by making them cheaper for holders of other
    Gold prices held their gains after minutes from the Federal
Reserve's December meeting showed almost all of the policymakers
thought the economy could grow more quickly because of fiscal
stimulus under U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's
    "However, many officials also stressed that there was
material uncertainty surrounding the effects of potential fiscal
policies," said Royce Mendes, director and senior economist at
CIBC Capital Markets in Toronto.
    "Together, that left members generally agreeing that a
gradual rate hike path remains appropriate for now."
    Gold's ascent in the past two weeks could come to a halt in
the event of strong U.S. non-farm payrolls for December, due for
release on Friday, as these would give a boost to the dollar and
increase optimism about the world's largest economy, ABN Amro
analyst Georgette Boele said. 
    Among other precious metals, palladium rose by as
much as 4.7 percent to $742.60 an ounce, the highest since Dec.
    "It is possible that some market participants have been
buying palladium in particular in anticipation of record-high
vehicle sales in the U.S.," Commerzbank said in a research note.
    The metal is mostly used to clean up exhaust emissions from
gasoline-powered vehicles.
    Silver was up 0.31 percent at $16.32 an ounce, while
platinum turned down 0.09 percent to $936.25, after
rising to a four-week high of $950.10 an ounce, extending a 4
percent increase in the previous session.

 (Additional reporting by Swati Verma in Bengaluru; Editing by
Keith Weir and Lisa Shumaker)