PRECIOUS-Gold rises as dollar weakens despite delayed U.S. stimulus vote

 (Updates prices)
    * Dollar hits lowest level since April, 2018 
    * First case of new virus variant detected in the United
    * Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus:

    By Nakul Iyer
    Dec 30 (Reuters) - Gold prices gained on Wednesday as the
dollar weakened, with investors looking past a top U.S.
Republican leader's decision to postpone a Senate vote on
increased pandemic relief payments.
    Spot gold        rose 0.2% to $1,881.17 per ounce by 0728
GMT. U.S. gold futures        were up 0.2% at $1,886.00.
    "A weaker dollar is enough to create a small upward momentum
for confidence to be maintained in gold," said Michael Langford,
director at corporate advisory AirGuide.
    The dollar index        hit a more than two-year low, as
traders shrugged off Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell's decision to put off a vote on increasing COVID-19
relief checks to $2,000.                  
    Langford said $2,000 stimulus checks would most likely go
through and that would be a positive for gold, adding that the
metal needed an unexpected catalyst to see significant upside.
    Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation and currency
debasement likely to result from large stimulus measures.
    "Gold could reclaim the $2,000 handle in 2021, depending on
the U.S. inflation outlook. Further rounds of fiscal stimulus
under the (Joe) Biden administration should translate into more
upside," said FXTM market analyst Han Tan.
    Investors now await Jan. 5 Georgia runoff elections that
would determine which political party will control the U.S.
Senate with expectations for more stimulus under a
Democrat-controlled Senate and House.             
    Meanwhile, coronavirus cases continued to soar globally,
with the first case of a new infectious virus variant being
detected in the United States.             
    "Exchange Traded Fund flows are set to have a major say on
how gold performs over the course of 2021, with investors
expected to wade further out into risk-on waters," FXTM's Tan
    Among other precious metals, silver        rose 0.4% to
$26.29 an ounce, platinum        gained 0.9% to $1,058.74 and
palladium        climbed 0.8% to $2,347.18.

 (Reporting by Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu
Sahu and Vinay Dwivedi)