PRECIOUS-Gold nearly 1-week high on rising expectations of U.S. stimulus

    Dec 17 (Reuters) - Gold prices steadied near a one-week high
on Thursday, as investors cheered progress on a U.S. fiscal
stimulus deal, while the Federal Reserve's pledge to keep rates
low until an economic recovery is secure added to the support.  
   * Spot gold        was little changed at $1,864.36 per ounce
by 0051 GMT, trading near a one-week high of $1,865.50 hit in
the previous session.  
   * U.S. gold futures        rose 0.5% to $1,867.80.
   * U.S. congressional negotiators on Wednesday were "closing
in on" a $900 billion COVID-19 aid bill, including $600 to $700
stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits, as a Friday
deadline loomed, lawmakers and aides said.            
   * With interest rates likely to stay near zero for years to
come, the Fed on Wednesday more explicitly promised to continue
its bond-buying programme until "substantial further progress"
in restoring full employment and hitting its 2% inflation
   * Adding to growing signs of a slowdown in the economic
recovery, U.S. retail sales fell more than expected in November.
   * Market participants now await the Bank of England's policy
decision, due at 1200 GMT, where it is expected to refrain from
further stimulus ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit that is
likely to deepen the pandemic-ravaged economy's problems.
   * Gold is seen as a hedge against inflation and currency
   * Britain and the European Union have moved closer to sealing
a new trade deal but it was still unclear if they would succeed,
the bloc's chief executive said on Wednesday.             
   * Silver        dropped 0.3% to $25.27 an ounce and platinum
       fell 0.3% to $1,031.50, while palladium        gained
0.3% to $2,333.83. 
1300 U.K  Bank of England's policy decision 
1330 U.S. Initial Jobless Claims w/e Dec. 12

 (Reporting by Nakul Iyer in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu