GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks, oil rise on U.S. data, central bank hope

Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:40am EST

* Dollar up on Italy deadlock and ahead of U.S. spending cuts

* European shares gain on confidence in central bank support

* U.S. factory, jobless claims help lift sentiment

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Global equity markets and crude oil rose on Wednesday, pulled higher by encouraging U.S. economic data and renewed confidence that major central banks will keep taking steps to support the global economy.

Wall Street opened mostly higher, following gains in European stocks as fresh signs of central bank support led to a recovery of losses caused by Italy's post-election political deadlock.

Strong domestic demand for Italian debt on Wednesday reduced worries about the deadlock and helped boost the appetite for riskier assets such stocks, oil and other commodities.

The pace of business activity in the U.S. Midwest rose to its highest in nearly a year in February as new orders increased, while a drop in new claims for unemployment benefits last week added recent data suggesting an improving economy.

The U.S. Commerce Department said gross domestic product rose 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, up from a previous reading showing a contraction, but less than a 0.5 percent gain forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.

"The jobless claims continue to show further signs of improvement in the labor market. It's encouraging," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. LLC in New York.

Wilkinson said the GDP report was largely history, and that the data was unlikely to impact investor sentiment.

"We knew that it was a bad quarter and we knew that there was a confluence of negative inputs such as from government inventories. We don't expect this to continue in 2013," he said.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 11.07 points, or 0.08 percent, at 14,086.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 2.73 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,518.72. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 12.24 points, or 0.39 percent, at 3,174.49.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading regional shares was up by 0.7 percent at 1,168.90.

MSCI's all-country world equity index rose 0.49 percent to 354.56.

In oil markets, Brent crude for April delivery gained 57 cents to $112.44 a barrel.

U.S. oil slid 5 cents to $92.71 a barrel.

The dollar rose against the euro and yen as investors embraced its safety against the backdrop of the Italian stalemate and less than 24 hours before automatic spending cuts are enacted in the United States.

While month-end flows should translate into choppy flows during the session, the euro's upside is seen as limited by concerns political instability will stall Italian economic reforms and reignite the euro zone debt crisis.

The euro last traded at $1.3088, down 0.38 percent on the day.

U.S. Treasuries rose as the potentially growth-damping impact of prospective U.S. government spending cuts fed the bid for safe-haven U.S. debt.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 4/32 in price to yield 1.8859 percent.

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