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World equities jumped to their highest level in nearly 33 months on Thursday while the dollar hit a three-year low as upbeat U.S. and European corporate earnings spurred investors into higher-yielding assets.
Gold surged to a lifetime high for a fifth straight session on the sharply weaker dollar, with lingering tensions in the oil-producing Middle East offering additional support.
Investor focus has shifted to solid U.S. and European corporate earnings and signs the global economy is chugging along even as the Federal Reserve remains cautious about when it will start to unwind its super-loose policy, offsetting concerns over sovereign debt problems on both sides of the Atlantic.
This has emboldened investors to pile back into riskier assets, though some analysts advised caution as worries about the euro zone debt crisis and problems in the supply chain following the Japanese earthquake stayed in the background.
The MSCI All-Country World Index advanced almost 0.7 percent to a high of 350.34, last seen in July 2008. The index has risen around 6 percent so far this year.
"After a slow start, earnings have improved quite rapidly and results from companies such as Intel and Apple have certainly boosted investor sentiment," said Keith Bowman, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
"There is some nervousness in the background, particularly in relation to the situation in Japan and what that means for the supply chain, but as of today the markets have concentrated on good corporate results."
German business sentiment fell in April as expected, the closely-watched Ifo survey showed.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.3 percent at a one-week high, with technology stocks leading gains after iPod maker Apple (AAPL-Q) smashed earnings forecasts.
Asian stocks recovered sharply from a stumble earlier in the week and rose to their highest level since January 2008 while the emerging stocks index climbed 0.9 percent.
The rally in equity markets cooled demand for safe-haven government bonds, pushing U.S. and euro zone benchmark German debt lower, though lingering concerns about the currency bloc's sovereign debt crisis limited losses.
GRIM DOLLAR OUTLOOK LIFTS GOLD
With little chance of the Fed raising interest rates any time soon, the dollar index fell 0.85 percent to 73.737, its lowest level since August 2008. Technical charts suggested it could move toward a record low of 70.698 hit earlier that year.
"Strong earnings reports from a lot of companies have driven risk appetite and we have seen huge moves in all dollar crosses, but it would be surprising if we didn't see some profit-taking," said Richard Falkenhall, currency strategist at SEB in Stockholm.
The sharply weakening U.S. dollar has suffered the most against commodity-linked currencies such as the Australian and Canadian dollars, as well as emerging markets currencies such as the Singapore dollar, as some policymakers in Asia allow more currency strength to fight imported inflation.
Brazil's central bank raised its benchmark interest rate on Wednesday to 12 percent from 11.75 percent as it seeks to rein in consumer prices.
Spot gold hit a record high of $1507.19 US an ounce and spot silver soared to a 31-year high while the Australian dollar powered to peaks above $1.07 -- a level not seen since the currency became free-floating in the early 1980s.
For the week, the Aussie was up 1.8 percent, making it the best performer among G10 currencies.
The euro pushed to 15-month peaks but has lagged the broader move due to resurgent worries about the euro zone crisis. Markets remain concerned that Greece is on the verge of announcing a debt restructuring, despite repeated denials by Athens, and potential snags in Portugal's bailout package.
The weakness in the dollar and a drop in U.S. stockpiles helped lift Brent crude prices above $124 a barrel, with Reuters data showing the correlation between a softer greenback and rising oil prices at its strongest this year.