(Recasts; updates prices, market activity) * Weekly jobless claims increase 30,000 to 778,000 * Fed officials discussed evolving role of asset purchases * Dollar at near three-month low * Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser By Shreyansi Singh Nov 25 (Reuters) - Gold prices held steady on Wednesday as Wall Street retreated from a record run on an unexpected rise in U.S. jobless claims, and the precious metal bounced off a sharp slide toward $1,800. Spot gold was little changed at $1,806.87 an ounce at 2:55 p.m. EST (1955 GMT), a day after hitting its lowest since July 17 at $1,800.01. U.S. gold futures settled up 0.1% at $1,805.50. The U.S. Labor Department reported initial claims for state unemployment benefits last week increased to 778,000 from 748,000 in the prior week. The jobless data is supportive for gold "just on notions that we've still got a very dark period ahead before we get through this pandemic," Kitco Metals senior analyst Jim Wyckoff said. The surprise rise in weekly jobless claims amid surging COVID-19 infections dampened investor risk appetite and halted a record rally in Wall Street fuelled by vaccine hopes. Safe-haven gold has lost nearly $160 since Pfizer's promising COVID-19 vaccine data boosted investors hopes for a quick economic rebound and prompted a shift towards riskier assets. The dollar's slide "along with the technical support (for gold near $1,800), convinced some people to maybe stop selling and acquire some more positions," said Bart Melek, head of commodity strategies at TD Securities. Meanwhile, U.S. central bankers agreed asset purchases were providing accommodation to the economy after market conditions stabilized, according to the Federal Reserve minutes of the Nov. 4-5 meeting released on Wednesday. Some participants in the Federal Open Market Committee said they expected the Fed to eventually lengthen the maturity of the bonds purchased, according to the deliberations.[ nW1N2HH01B] Gold tends to benefit from widespread stimulus measures from central banks because it is widely viewed as a hedge against inflation and currency debasement. Silver was up 0.3% at $23.31 an ounce, platinum inched up 0.1% to $960.47 and palladium was down 0.4% at $2,339.26. (Reporting by Shreyansi Singh in Bengaluru; editing by Barbara Lewis, David Gregorio and Tom Brown)
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