PRECIOUS-Gold litle changed amid firm dollar

Dec 10 (Reuters) - Gold prices were steady early on Monday, holding above a four-month low hit last week, amid a firm dollar.


* Spot gold was nearly unchanged at $1,247.80 an ounce by 0045 GMT, after hitting its lowest since July 26 at $1,243.71 on Dec. 7.

* U.S. gold futures were 0.1 percent higher at $1,250.10.

* The dollar was steady in early Asian trade on Monday, underpinned by expectations of higher U.S. interest rates, while bitcoin seized the spotlight as futures of the cryptocurrency began trading.

* Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collins, whose support was crucial in passing the Senate tax reform bill earlier this month, said on Sunday she has not yet decided whether she will back the final measure negotiated by House and Senate leaders.

* U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday signed legislation to fund the federal government for two weeks, giving congressional negotiators more time to work out budget priorities through next September and other thorny policy matters.

* A Palestinian stabbed an Israeli security guard at Jerusalem's main bus station on Sunday, police said, and violence flared near the U.S. Embassy in Beirut over U.S. President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

* The United States, Japan and South Korea will hold two days of missile tracking drills starting on Monday, Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force said, as tensions rise in the region over North Korea's fast-developing weapons programs.

* U.S. job growth increased at a strong clip in November, painting a portrait of a healthy economy that analysts say does not require the kind of fiscal stimulus that President Donald Trump is proposing, even though wage gains remain moderate.

* Britain and the European Union struck a divorce deal on Friday that paves the way for arduous talks on future trade ties, easing immediate pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May and boosting hopes of an orderly Brexit.

* Hedge funds and money managers sharply reduced their net long positions in COMEX gold and silver contracts in the week to Dec. 5, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) data showed on Friday.


1500 U.S. Employment trends Nov

(Reporting by Apeksha Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Biju Dwarakanath)