(Updates prices) * Platinum hits highest since Jan. 16 at $1,034/oz * Palladium falls over 7% * Dollar trades near 2-1/2 year low * Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: tmsnrt.rs/3mvcUoa By Shreyansi Singh Dec 3 (Reuters) - Gold firmed on Thursday as the dollar fell and investors clung to hopes of an eventual breakthrough in negotiations over a new U.S. coronavirus aid package. Spot gold gained 0.4% to $1,838.83 per ounce at 2:15 p.m. EST (1915 GMT). It earlier hit its highest since Nov. 23 at $1,843.80, but gave up gains following a lower-than-expected U.S. jobless claims number. U.S. gold futures settled up 0.6% at $1,841.10. U.S. lawmakers sought to hammer out an agreement on aid for an ailing U.S. economy with signs that a $908 billion bipartisan proposal was gaining traction, while U.S. President Donald Trump expressed support for a relief bill. Joe Biden coming to power in Washington could lead to more stimulus, said Daniel Pavilonis, senior market strategist at RJO Futures. But ultimately, "the gold market expected a lot more stimulus" than is being negotiated, he added, capping bullion's upside. Optimism surrounding a stimulus deal and progress over COVID-19 vaccines kept the dollar index near a more than two-year low, buoying appeal for gold among investors holding other currencies. "Stimulus talks and further dollar weakening are lending more support to gold," said StoneX analyst Rhona O'Connell in a note. Gold, considered a hedge against inflation and currency debasement, has risen more than 21% this year, benefiting from near-zero interest rates and the risk of higher inflation likely to result from massive stimulus globally to ease the economic blow from the pandemic. Platinum hit a near eleven-month peak at $1,034 per ounce. It was last up 1.3% at $1,028.07. Platinum has consolidated above $1,000 on positive global growth sentiment, with initial targets extending towards $1,040 as exchange traded fund interest drives price action related to deficits forecast in 2021, MKS PAMP said in a note. Palladium fell 4% to $2,301.68 per ounce, after plunging as much as 7.3% earlier and silver was down 0.4% at $24.00. (Reporting by Shreyansi Singh and Aaron Saldanha in Bengaluru. Editing by Mark Potter/Barbara Lewis/Jane Merriman)
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