December 28, 2017 / 4:51 PM / 9 months ago

GLOBAL MARKETS-World stocks rally with surge in metals prices, U.S. dollar retreats

* Copper rally keeps focus on global growth

* MSCI world index set for 14th month of gains

* U.S. dollar under pressure (Updates to U.S. market open; updates byline and dateline, previous LONDON)

By Trevor Hunnicutt

Dec 28 (Reuters) - World stocks trotted higher in light, holiday trading on Thursday, moving to record levels as rising industrial metals prices gestured to a strong finish to the year for risk assets.

MSCI’s world equity index, which tracks shares in 47 countries, has returned more than 24 percent this year including dividends, and looks set for a record 14th month of gains. The index added 0.15 percent on Thursday.

U.S. stocks opened higher, too, despite a weakening dollar.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 34.9 points, or 0.14 percent, to 24,809.2, the S&P 500 gained 1.12 points, or 0.04 percent, to 2,683.74 and the Nasdaq Composite added 6.58 points, or 0.09 percent, to 6,945.91.

Equity markets have fed off a recovery this year in global economic growth, which has in turn lifted company earnings and commodity prices.

Copper futures were at new four-year highs for an annual gain topping 30 percent, and the metal gained 0.87 percent to $7,303 a tonne on Thursday.

“Commodities are driving trade in the final days of 2017,” analysts at London Capital Group said in a note.

“Dr Copper is telling us we could be in for a strong 2018,” they added, referring to the perception of the industrial metal as a key barometer of economic growth.

But the U.S. dollar appeared to ignore signs that the new year could bring higher rates and stronger growth in the United States, the world’s largest economy.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of major world currencies, fell 0.42 percent and was at four-week lows.

“The dollar bears are getting their last licks in for 2017, perhaps a foreshadowing of things to come in 2018,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

COMMODITY-LINKED CURRENCIES RISE

With the dollar on the backfoot and commodities flying, currencies of commodity-exporting countries such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa hit multi-week highs.

Dollar weakness also helped give another boost to emerging markets, where stocks are up 34 percent this year and on pace for their best performance since 2009.

MSCI’s emerging market stock index surged 0.81 percent. And the financial data company’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 0.86 percent higher.

Another tailwind for world stocks is the fact that U.S. tax cuts, which will lead to significantly higher borrowing in coming years, have not so far translated into higher borrowing costs.

In fact, U.S. 10-year Treasury yields have retreated after briefly breaking above the key 2.50 percent level last week. Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 4/32 in price to yield 2.4269 percent, from 2.412 percent late on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, there was some downbeat economic news. The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was a bit higher than consensus estimates, according to seasonally adjusted figures published by the Labor Department on Thursday.

JPMorgan Chase & Co economist Daniel Silver said in a note that the number “could be a signal that conditions in the labor market have deteriorated.”

U.S. consumer confidence data released on Wednesday also came in below consensus estimates.

Oil prices, meanwhile, are near 2-1/2-year highs and gold climbed to a near-one-month top.

Additional reporting by Sujata Rao, Swati Pandey, Abhinav Ramnarayan and Kit Rees; Editing by Bernadette Baum

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