* Dollar up on Italy deadlock and before 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 Global equity markets and Brent
crude oil rose on Thursday, pulled higher by encouraging U.S.
economic data and renewed confidence that major central banks
will keep taking steps to support their economies.
Italian bonds pared recent losses on reduced worries about
the country's political deadlock, helping to whet the appetite
for riskier assets such as stocks, oil and other commodities.
A drop in new U.S. claims for jobless benefits last week and
a sharp rise in factory activity in the Midwest in February
added to recent data that suggests the U.S. economy is
The U.S. Commerce Department said gross domestic product
rose 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter - reversing a previous
reading showing a contraction, but less than the 0.5 percent
gain forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll.
Investors, however, largely shrugged off the anemic economic
growth of the fourth quarter to focus on a brighter picture
"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.
"We knew that it was a bad quarter, and we knew that there
was a confluence of negative inputs such as from government
inventories," he said of the fourth-quarter GDP. "We don't
expect this to continue in 2013."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 4.99 points,
or 0.04 percent, at 14,080.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 1.90 points, or 0.13 percent, at 1,517.89. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 6.48 points, or 0.20
percent, at 3,168.74.
The U.S. equity market lacks catalysts as it digests its
recent move higher, according to Kevin Caron, market strategist
at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New Jersey, where he
helps oversee $120 billion in assets under management.
"That's why I think you're seeing a fairly listless trading
environment today," Caron said.
In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
regional shares rose 0.9 percent to close at 1,171.47.
MSCI's all-country world equity index rose
0.52 percent to 354.64.
In oil markets, Brent crude for April delivery
gained 46 cents to $112.33 a barrel.
In contrast, U.S. oil for April delivery slipped 20
cents to $92.56 a barrel.
Gold headed toward its longest run of monthly declines in
more than 16 years as an improved economic backdrop and reduced
concerns about inflation blunted its appeal to investors.
Spot gold fell 1.3 percent to $1,577.00 an ounce, on
course for a monthly drop of more than 4 percent. The precious
metal has been in the red for five straight months - the longest
such losing streak since late 1996 to early 1997.
The dollar rose against the euro and yen as investors
embraced its perceived safety against the backdrop of the
Italian stalemate and less than 24 hours before automatic
federal spending cuts are enacted in the United States.
The euro extended losses against the Japanese yen and U.S.
dollar as month-end positioning and fears about a stalemate in
Italy prompted investors to shed holdings of the currency.
The euro last traded at $1.3085, down 0.4 percent for
The euro's upside is seen as limited by concerns that
political instability will stall Italian economic reforms and
reignite the euro-zone debt crisis.
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 gained
3/32 in price to yield 1.8894 percent.