Hawkish ECB Helps Lift Gold Prices

BlackRock's Koesterich Says Equities Can Go Higher

"D$3 espite the Eurozone's increasingly brisk growth rate, the European Central Bank is still deeply concerned about inflation and the stubbornly low pace of wage rises".

And now sterling has fallen by 0.5 percent against the euro, after the ECB's most recent announcement.

The ECB has pledged to continue its bond purchase programme at least until September and investors expect any rate increase to take place next year.

The German DAX declined 0.6% and France's CAC 40 index slid 0.3% while the UK's FTSE 100 edged up 0.2%.

The dollar stayed in the doldrums after US wholesale prices dipped in December from November, reinforcing investors' expectations that inflation will remain low.

Bond yields rose sharply on Thursday after the accounts of the latest European Central Bank meeting showed policymakers were preparing for a change in their message to reflect an improved economic outlook for the euro zone. Japan's Nikkei 225 and Topix indices traded lower by 0.2% and 0.6% respectively, but Hong Kong's Hang Seng index climbed 0.8%, trading at its highest since late 2007.

Optimism about fourth-quarter earnings boosted stocks.

Bitcoin was 3.8 percent higher at $13,749.05 on the Luxembourg-based Bitstamp exchange a day after it skidded over 11 percent after the government of South Korea said it was considering a plan to ban cryptocurrency trading. The Australian dollar rose to $0.7891, from $0.7842, but shied away from stiff chart resistance at $0.7900.

Bonds recovered somewhat this morning after Chinese officials backtracked on suggestions that the state planned to slow its purchases of U.S. Treasurys.

Benchmark 10-year notes gained 6/32 in price to yield 2.53 percent, after rising as high as 2.597 on Wednesday, the highest since March 15.

"Our target for USA 10-year treasuries is 2.8 - and we might afford up to 3 per cent - but going beyond that it's becoming an alert signal", said Amundi's Defend. The bank sees the euro at $1.30 by the end of the year.

Gold prices on Thursday approached a four-month high set on the previous day after minutes of a European Central Bank meeting showed a more aggressive tone and boosted the euro against the US dollar. Sterling GBP= was last trading at $1.3731, up 0.03 percent.

In the USA, the Labor Department reported that weekly jobless claims rose by 11,000 to 261,000 new claims, a three-month high.

Oil prices retreated from big gains the previous day but still traded near three-year highs on signs of tightening supply in the US.

The surveys found that banks tightened their lending criteria again in the final three months of 2017, meaning the supply of unsecured credit available to households fell in each quarter a year ago.

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