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PRECIOUS-Gold firms on stimulus bets, weak dollar

 (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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