* Euro zone growth lifts spirits, world stocks rise
* U.S. stocks up slightly after opening
* Dollar at 3-week low vs euro
* Gold rises to three-month highs
By Caroline Valetkevitch
NEW YORK, Feb 14 Signs of a gradual improvement
in euro zone growth helped lift world stocks on Friday and
pushed the euro to its highest in almost three weeks against the
U.S. stocks opened up slightly, putting the S&P 500 on track
for its first two-week winning streak of the year, while gold
rose to three-month highs above $1,300 an ounce following the
Investors gave a cautious thumbs up to political changes in
Italy's center-left leader, Matteo Renzi, forced out Prime
Minister Enrico Letta on Thursday after Letta failed to pass
major reforms. The new government will be Italy's third in a
year, but the hope is Renzi can revive efforts to streamline the
euro zone's third-largest economy.
The MSCI global stock index climbed 0.4
percent, while stocks in Milan were Europe's best
performers, rising 1.5 percent, compared with a 0.4 percent gain
for the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index.
Fourth-quarter gross domestic product reports in Germany
and France both exceeded expectations. That
meant euro zone GDP growth as a whole also beat forecasts - 0.3
percent versus a projected 0.2 percent. That reduced the
pressure on the European Central Bank to cut interest rates at
its next meeting.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average rose
49.44 points or 0.31 percent, to 16,077.03, the S&P 500
gained 3.42 points or 0.19 percent, to 1,833.25 and the Nasdaq
Composite dropped 0.54 points or 0.01 percent, to
In the currency market, the euro rose as high as $1.3715
Gold rose to three-month highs above $1,300 and looked set
to post its biggest weekly gain in six months. Spot gold
was up 1 percent to $1,315.10 an ounce after earlier rising 1.3
percent to its highest since Nov. 8 at $1,319.80.
The weaker dollar also helped Asian emerging-market
currencies gain for the week. The Indonesian rupiah was
near a 11-week high after a report showed the country's current
account deficit narrowed in the fourth quarter.
In the bond markets, benchmark 10-year Treasury note prices
were down 4/32, with a yield at 2.75.
U.S. bond yields rallied this week after the U.S. Congress
approved an increase in the debt limit and incoming Federal
Reserve Chair Janet Yellen maintained the central bank's
commitment to gradually withdraw its stimulus.
In the energy market, oil prices slipped, with U.S. crude
down 38 cents at $99.97 and Brent crude down 12
cents at $108.40.