PRECIOUS-Gold gains as new COVID-19 variant lifts safe-haven demand

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By Nakul Iyer

Nov 26 (Reuters) - Gold prices gained on Friday, as concerns over the spread of a newly identified coronavirus variant boosted the metal's safe-haven appeal, although bullion was set for a weekly drop on growing bets the U.S. Federal Reserve could turn more hawkish.

Spot gold XAU= was up 0.5% at $1,797.46 per ounce, as of 0445 GMT. U.S. gold futures GCv1 advanced 0.8% to $1,797.70.

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The variant, detected by scientists in South Africa, may be able to evade immune responses and has prompted Britain to hurriedly introduce travel restrictions on the African nation.

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Further aiding gold's climb, the dollar index =USD eased 0.2% from a 16-month peak scaled earlier this week, while U.S. benchmark 10-year Treasury yields also weakened.

A weaker dollar reduces gold's cost to buyers holding other currencies, while lower yields decrease the non-yielding metal's opportunity cost.

But the metal lost 2.6% so far this week, heading for its worst week since Aug. 6, hammered by increased expectations that the Fed could taper its asset purchases and raise interest rates at a faster pace.

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