* Equities rise after encouraging U.S. labor market report
* Euro gains after ECB gives no hint of further easing
* Brent crude rebounds after U.S. economic data
* Bonds slip as safe-haven appeal recedes
By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, March 7 Global equity markets rose on
Thursday after an encouraging U.S. weekly labor market report
indicated a steadily improving economy, while the euro
strengthened after the European Central Bank left its benchmark
interest rate unchanged.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment
benefits unexpectedly fell last week, another sign in recent
data that the labor market is picking up.
On Wall Street, U.S. stocks rose on the labor report. But
European shares pared their gains when ECB President Mario
Draghi was non-committal as to whether he thought equity markets
were fairly priced at current lofty levels.
The euro rallied more than 1 percent as Draghi gave no hints
of further easing in euro-zone interest rates after the ECB left
its benchmark rate unchanged at 0.75 percent.
A growing minority of respondents in a Reuters poll - 22 of
76 - expect the ECB eventually to cut its main refinancing rate
to a record low of 0.5 percent.
The Dow hit an intraday record for a third consecutive
session, climbing as high as 14,354.69 after reaching uncharted
territory on Tuesday. The broader S&P 500 remains more than 1
percent below its record close and intraday high set in October
Other U.S. stock indexes also hit intraday records.
The number of Americans filing initial claims for
unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to a seasonally adjusted
340,000 last week.
The market's focus turned to Friday, when the government's
monthly non-farm payrolls report is expected to show the U.S.
economy added 160,000 jobs in February.
"Today's move is pretty tranquil. No one is going to take
big positions ahead of tomorrow's number, but the market is
definitely in an uptrend," said Paul Zemsky, in charge of asset
allocation at ING Investment Management in New York.
"If payrolls disappoint, we'll have a pullback, but that
won't be enough to derail the rally," said Zemsky, who helps
oversee $170 billion. "If the report is strong, markets still
have room to grow."
The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 33.25
points, or 0.23 percent, at 14,329.49. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index rose 2.80 points, or 0.18 percent, at 1,544.26. The
Nasdaq Composite Index gained 9.72 points, or 0.30
percent, at 3,232.09.
INTRA-DAY HIGH EXTRAVAGANZA
The equity rally's sharp advance has raised concerns on both
sides of the Atlantic. The Dow has climbed 15 percent from its
November lows, while the FTSEurofirst 300 Index of
leading European shares has gained 11 percent.
The Russell 2000 Index, which measures the
performance of 2,000 U.S. small-cap companies, hit an intraday
record high in Thursday's session. The Russell 1000 and
the Russell 3000 also climbed to record intraday highs.
"Equity markets have had a pretty significant advance over
the past several months since bottoming in November. Despite
generally positive market internals, there's some worry about
jumping into the market at these levels," said Michael Sheldon,
chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport,
European shares ended slightly lower on Thursday, held back
by a post-results slump for British insurer Aviva. Some
said they expected the pullback to continue in the short term.
The FTSEurofirst 300 dipped 0.07 percent to close at
1,185.17 after hitting a 4-1/2-year intraday high on Wednesday.
Five leading stock indices for Britain, Germany, France,
Italy and Spain all ended the day higher.
MSCI's all-country world stock index eased
from an intraday high for the year of 359.47, to trade up 0.14
The euro was up 1.1 percent at $1.3107 after hitting
a session peak of $1.3116, a five-day high.
The ECB and the Bank of England kept interest rates on hold,
Prices for U.S. Treasuries slid as a second straight day of
better-than-expected labor market data boosted appetite for
Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell 16/32 in
price to yield 1.9947 percent.
Oil hovered near break-even at about $111 a barrel as the
ECB gave no strong hint about monetary policy easing in the
months ahead and on the better-than-expected U.S. jobs data.
Brent crude rose 9 cents to settle at $111.15 a
barrel. U.S. crude futures gained $1.13 to settle at