GLOBAL MARKETS-U.S. stocks dip on unimpressive Q4 growth; gold tumbles

Thu Mar 27, 2014 5:11pm EDT

(Updates to close Of U.S. trading)

* Gold hits six-week bottom on worry over U.S. rate hike

* New Zealand dollar rises to 2-1/2-year high

* Citigroup shares post biggest daily drop since Nov. 2012

* Euro at three-week low on fear of ECB easing

By Barani Krishnan

NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell on Thursday after upwardly revised fourth-quarter growth data failed to impress investors and worries over Ukraine lingered, while gold tumbled to a six-week low on expectations U.S. interest rates might rise sooner than thought.

The euro hit a three-week bottom against the dollar as speculation rose that the European Central Bank might ease monetary policy further. Peripheral European government bond yields hit a multi-year trough.

In global equities trading, the MSCI world equity index edged up 0.01 percent, while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index gained 0.22 percent.

Wall Street derived little comfort from the final revision to fourth-quarter growth and a decline in weekly jobless claims to a four-month low. The U.S. Commerce Department said gross domestic product expanded at a 2.6 percent annual pace, below the 2.7 percent pace expected by analysts.

The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 4.76 points or 0.03 percent, to end at 16,264.23. The S&P 500 lost 3.52 points or 0.19 percent, to close at 1,849.04. The Nasdaq Composite dropped 22.346 points or 0.54 percent, to finish at 4,151.232.

At the close, the S&P 500 was up just a fraction of a point for the year.

"Data has largely been in line. It's been incredibly uneven, and that is another reason why there is some hesitancy," said Peter Kenny, chief executive officer of Clearpool Group in New York.

"The market has been given plenty of reasons to sharply sell off and it does not seem as though there is that spirit to do it," he added. "Clearly we are coming to the end of the quarter and no one is particularly interested in marking the book down."

Technology shares weakened again as investors moved further away from more speculative investments in the stock market. The S&P technology index was down 0.5 percent.

A steep decline in shares of Citigroup Inc pressured the market. Citi finished down 5.5 percent at $47.45, after falling to $47.12 earlier, in its biggest daily drop since November 2012 after the Federal Reserve on Wednesday rejected the bank's plan to return capital to shareholders.

The benchmark S&P index managed to hold above the 1,840 support level, allowing money managers to "window dress," or adjust positions to improve the look of their portfolios, as the end of the first quarter approached.

Investors also remained concerned over the prolonged conflict between the West and Russia over Ukraine. The United States and the European Union on Wednesday agreed to prepare possibly tougher economic sanctions in response to Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea territory.

Gold's spot price broke below the psychological support level of $1,300 an ounce as traders watched for clues on U.S. rate hikes. The improved U.S. growth figures diminishes metal's appeal as a hedge. While Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said last week that rates could start rising by early next year, the gold market is reacting to the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.

In U.S. Treasuries trading, yields on 30-year U.S. bonds fell to 3.51 percent to hit their lowest level since July. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 8/32 in price, its yield at 2.672 percent.

The dollar edged higher against the euro and the yen after the U.S. economic data.

The New Zealand dollar rose to a 2-1/2 year peak against the U.S. dollar after economic data and hints that the country's central bank could raise interest rates. The New Zealand currency hit a high of $0.8672, up 0.9 percent on the day.

Investors had bought the dollar last week after Yellen suggested the possibility of the Fed raising interest rates early next year, or about six months after its bond-buying program ends.

In Europe, the focus was on whether the ECB might act to bolster a slow economic recovery.

Emerging market stocks were steady while Ukraine's sovereign government bonds rose after the International Monetary Fund said it had agreed to a $14 billion to $18 billion bailout for the country.

(Additional reporting by Natsuko Waki and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Leslie Adler and Dan Grebler)