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MUMBAI, March 21 Thu Mar 20, 2014 10:57pm EDT

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MUMBAI, March 21 (Reuters) - EQUITIES

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks rose on Thursday, after a batch of economic data pointed to an improving economy and investors reassessed Fed Chair Janet Yellen's comments that had fuelled speculation of an earlier-than-expected rate hike by the central bank.

After several weeks of soft economic data attributed by many investors to harsh winter weather conditions, labour market data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing for jobless benefits hovered near three-month lows last week. A report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia showed that factory activity in the Mid-Atlantic region rebounded in March, suggesting economic momentum may be on the upswing. For a full report, double click on

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LONDON - Britain's top equity index fell on Thursday, hit by a drop in drugs group GlaxoSmithKline and a hint from the Federal Reserve that U.S. interest rates may rise sooner than previously expected. The blue-chip FTSE 100 index, which rose 14.4 percent in 2013 and came close to a 13-year high in January, closed down 30.69 points, or 0.5 percent, at 6,542.44 points.

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TOKYO - Japanese markets are closed on Friday for a public holiday.

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HONG KONG - Hang Seng Index set to open up 0.3 percent.

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FOREIGN EXCHANGE

SYDNEY - The U.S. dollar hovered near a three-week peak against a basket of major currencies early on Friday, but could struggle to extend gains as investors awaited more clarity on the Federal Reserve's policy path.

Fed officials including Richard Fisher, James Bullard and Narayana Kocherlakota are all due to speak later on Friday, after Fed Chair Janet Yellen surprised markets mid-week by suggesting the possibility of raising interest rates early next year.

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TREASURIES

NEW YORK - Yields on U.S. 2-year Treasuries hovered near their highest in six months on Thursday, a day after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signalled the central bank might raise U.S. interest rates sooner than expected.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday after the Fed's two-day policy meeting, Yellen said the Fed could raise rates six months after its current bond-buying program ends, which spurred selling on fears of an earlier-than-expected move away from the bank's near-zero rate policy.

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COMMODITIES

GOLD

SINGAPORE - Gold edged up in thin trade on Friday but was on track for its biggest weekly fall since September as the dollar firmed after the U.S. Federal Reserve hinted at an interest rate hike in the first half of 2015.

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BASE METALS

SYDNEY - London copper climbed half a percent on Friday but was set to close the week little changed and not far from three-and-a-half year lows, as worries about China's economy clouded the outlook for demand.

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OIL

NEW YORK - Brent crude oil futures rose on Thursday as sanctions against Russia injected a new risk premium into the market and strong equities provided support, while U.S. crude fell ahead of the April contract's expiry.

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