PRECIOUS-Gold climbs on weaker dollar, lingering Omicron worries

(Updates prices)

* Palladium set for last rally next year on auto sector revival

* Wall Street climbs on positive economic data

By Kavya Guduru

Dec 22 (Reuters) - Gold prices gained on Wednesday, aided by a retreat in the dollar and lingering fears over the Omicron coronavirus variant throwing a wrench in global economic recovery.

Spot gold was last up 0.5% at $1,797.60 per ounce by 1723 GMT. U.S. gold futures added 0.5% to $1,798.20.

Although analysts played down Omicron's impact, more countries announced restrictions to reduce its spread, dampening sentiment for riskier assets to some extent.

There's some buying interest from a slight retreat in the U.S. Treasury yields and the dollar, said Jim Wyckoff, a senior analyst at Kitco Metals who attributed the uptick to a "corrective bounce."

While the Omicron scare has probably run its course in the market, it is still positive for gold because it's going to allow traders to focus on other things like rising inflation and a clearer monetary policy from the Federal Reserve, Wyckoff added. The dollar index inched lower, boosting bullion's appeal for overseas buyers, while benchmark U.S. Treasury yields also eased.

Investors also took stock of data showing U.S. economic growth slowed sharply in the third quarter amid a flare-up in COVID-19 infections, although activity had since picked up, putting the economy on track to record its best performance this year since 1984.

Broadly speaking, however, "with trading volume thin and major players away ahead of the year, the gold market is expected to be choppy," Phillip Futures analyst Avtar Sandu said in a note.

Spot silver gained 1% to $22.72 per ounce, platinum jumped 3.9% to $970.52 and palladium rose 5.9% to $1,898.68.

Palladium is set for one last rally next year as a revival in the auto sector boosts demand for the metal used in engine exhausts, before the rise of electric vehicles sends prices into long-term decline. (Reporting by Kavya Guduru, Bharat Govind Gautam and Seher Dareen in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ashitha Shivaprasad; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri, Uttaresh.V and Ramakrishnan M.)

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