(Updates to U.S. markets; changes byline, dateline previously LONDON)
* Gold hits 6-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 3-week low on fear of ECB easing
By Barani Krishnan
NEW YORK, March 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were little changed on Thursday after the government’s upward revision to fourth-quarter growth was not enough to inspire investors and as worries over Ukraine lingered, while gold tumbled to a six-week low on bets that U.S. interest rates might rise sooner than expected.
The euro hit a three-week low against the dollar on speculation the European Central Bank might ease monetary policy further. Peripheral European government bond yields hit a multi-year trough.
In U.S. Treasuries, yields on intermediate-dated notes edged higher, and the yield curve resumed a recent flattening trend, as investors prepared for $29 billion of new seven-year notes. It was the final sale of new $96 billion coupon-bearing supply this week.
The U.S. Commerce Department said gross domestic product expanded at a 2.6 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter, revised up from its prior estimate of 2.4 percent but below the 2.7 percent pace expected by analysts.
“We need surprisingly good news to jar the market out of its trading range, and today’s data, while respectable, isn’t that,” said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.
However, an unexpected drop in weekly jobless claims to a near four-month low supported the theory that economic weakness earlier in the year was due to a brutal winter rather than worsening fundamentals.
A steep decline in shares of Citigroup Inc pressured the market. Citi’s shares suffered their biggest daily drop since November 2012 after the Federal Reserve on Wednesday rejected the bank’s to return capital to shareholders.
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 $1,300 an ounce psychological support on price charts as traders watched for clues on U.S. rate hikes. While Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said last week that rates could start rising by early next year, the gold market is already reacting to the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding bullion.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 21.77 points, or 0.13 percent, at 16,290.76. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 0.11 points, or 0.01 percent, at 1,852.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 9.98 points, or 0.24 percent, at 4,163.60.
Citigroup slumped 5.2 percent to $47.52 a day after the Fed rejected the bank’s plan to buy back $6.4 billion of shares and boost dividends, saying the bank wasn’t sufficiently prepared to handle a potential financial crisis.
Shares of Zions Bancorp, whose capital plan was also rejected by the Fed, fell 0.8 percent to $29.40.
In U.S. Treasuries, lighter demand was expected for the $29 billion auction of seven-year notes, compared to Wednesday’s strong sale for the $35-billion five-year notes.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 1/32, with the yield at 2.7045 percent.
In global equities, the MSCI world equity index edged up 0.07 percent while the pan-European FTSEurofirst 200 index was up 0.14 percent.
The dollar edged higher against the euro and the yen after the U.S. economic data, while the New Zealand dollar hovered near a 2-1/2-year high after economic data and hints that the country’s central bank could raise interest rates.
The U.S. data put the Federal Reserve “squarely on pace” to continue cutting its monthly asset purchases and raise short-term interest rates in the first half of 2015, said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.
Investors had bought the dollar last week after Fed Chair Janet Yellen suggested the possibility of raising interest rates early next year, or about six months after its current bond-buying program ends.
In Europe, the focus was on whether the euro zone’s central bank might act to bolster a slow economic recovery.
The New Zealand dollar rose to a 2-1/2 year against the U.S. dollar after economic data and hints that the country’s central bank could raise interest rates. The New Zealand current hit a high of $0.8680, up 0.9 percent on the day.
Emerging market stocks were steady while Ukraine’s sovereign government bonds rose after the International Monetary Fund said it had agreed a $14-18 billion bailout for the country.
Spanish 10-year yields hit an eight-year low of 3.271 percent and Italian yields an 8-1/2-year low of 3.327 percent, while Portuguese yields shrank fell to a four-year low of 4.091 percent.
All of these countries were at the leading edge of the euro zone debt crisis before the region's fortunes began to improve. Italy's 10-year government bonds are the best performing asset so far this year after gold and commodities. (link.reuters.com/pat75v) (Additional reporting by Natsuko Waki and Marius Zaharia; Editing by Leslie Adler)