GLOBAL MARKETS-Euro rallies as rate hike eyed; global stocks up

* Euro gains on expectations of rise in interest rates

* Stocks buoyant, Wall Street starts higher

* Portugal sells bill, but pays price

* Commodities power higher; gold hits record high
(Rewrites, updates with Wall Street open, adds quote, details,
updates prices, changes byline, dateline previously LONDON)

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, April 6 (Reuters) – The euro rose to a more than
one-year high year against the dollar on Wednesday ahead of an
expected interest rate hike in the euro zone, while global
equities gained on a generally brighter economic picture.

Gold rose to a record high, silver touched a 31-year high,
and oil held above $122 a barrel, as unrest in the Middle East
continued to drive safety bids and the weaker dollar lent
support. A weaker greenback makes dollar-priced assets more
affordable to holders of the euro and other currencies.

U.S. stocks opened higher as investors bet the upcoming
earnings season and more merger activity will continue to lift
the market. Mining shares rose with gold prices.

Emerging markets also rose, helped by renewed interest due
to higher expectations for interest rates in developed markets.
For details, see [ID:nLDE7301MN]

“There’s optimism earnings will be good for the first
quarter,” said Giri Cherukuri, head trader at OakBrook
Investments in Lisle, Illinois.

“Semiconductors are up on expectation of more M&A activity
in the tech sector,” he said.

Portugal added to the positive tone after the battered euro
zone peripheral economy successfully sold six- and 12-month
treasury bills but had to pay a steep price in interest.
[ID:nLDE7350HL]

The European Central Bank meets Thursday and is widely
expected to raise its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis
points from a record low 1.0 percent to curb inflation
pressures. (ECBWATCH: Quote, Profile, Research)

The prospect of the euro zone’s first rise in rates since
July 2008 pushed the euro to its highest level against the
dollar since late January 2010.

The euro rose as high as $1.4317 (EUR=: Quote, Profile, Research), according to
Reuters data, and last traded up 0.5 percent at $1.4293.

Against the yen the euro hit its highest level since May
2010, rising to a high 121.96 yen (EURJPY: Quote, Profile, Research). It was last up 0.9
percent at 121.88 yen.

The yen was expected to suffer more losses as investors
continue to expect the Bank of Japan to lag other central banks
in tightening policy.

The dollar weakness supported oil prices, which held near a
2-1/2-year peak. Brent crude (LCOc1: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 83 cents at
$123.05.

“Central bankers will always claim that they have no
influence on oil prices but recent history has repetitively
shown that in the new world, where commodities are a global
asset, central bankers can have a greater influence on oil
prices than OPEC,” said Olivier Jakob from Petromatrix.

Spot gold (XAU=: Quote, Profile, Research) hit another record high, rising to
$1,460.60 an ounce. Silver (XAG=: Quote, Profile, Research) rose to $39.48 an ounce, its
highest since January 1980.

OPTIMISM RULES

World stocks as measured by MSCI (.MIWD00000OOPUS: Quote, Profile, Research) were up
0.4 percent percent. Emerging market stocks (.MSCIEF: Quote, Profile, Research) gained
0.8 percent, while Europe’s FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3: Quote, Profile, Research) gained
0.4 percent.

Shares of European banks rose after the successful
Portuguese debt auction.

The Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI: Quote, Profile, Research) gained 39.51 points,
or 0.32 percent, to 12,433.41. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index
(.SPX: Quote, Profile, Research) rose 5.08 points, or 0.38 percent, to 1,337.71. The
Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC: Quote, Profile, Research) was up 15.66 points, or 0.56
percent, at 2,806.85.

Data showing that German industrial orders soared above
expectations in February brightened the outlook for Europe’s
top economy. Orders grew by 2.4 percent on the month, compared
to the Reuters forecast for an increase of 0.6 percent.
[ID:nLDE7350XH].

“Optimism continues to rule even though there are still …
clear and present dangers. Portugal needs to find some
financing fast,” said Philippe Gijsels, analyst at BNP Paribas
Fortis Global Markets.

Portugal sold a total of 1.005 billion euros ($1.43
billion) in 12-month and six-month T-bills, but yields rose
sharply from previous auctions last month.

The 12-month T-bill yield rose to 5.902 percent from 4.331
percent in the previous auction three weeks ago, while the
yield on the shorter maturity rose to 5.117 percent from 2.984
percent in a sale in early March.

Demand, however, outstripped supply by 2.6 times for the
12-month t-bills and by 2.3 times for the six-month T-bills.

“The bill auctions show that Portugal is able to fund
itself in the bill markets, but the cost is substantially
higher than previous auctions,” said Peter Chatwell, rate
strategist at Credit Agricole.

“I suspect that as far as the market is concerned, funding
at these levels can only be viewed as a temporary measure.”

Portugal is struggling hard to avoid being overwhelmed by
its debt burden.
(Additional reporting by Nick Olivari, Rodrigo Campos, Jessica
Mortimer, Atul Prakash and Patrick Graham; Editing by Leslie
Adler)

GLOBAL MARKETS-Euro rallies as rate hike eyed; global stocks up