By Richard Hubbard
LONDON (Reuters) - The euro and commodities gained ground on Thursday as evidence of a weakening U.S. economy put the dollar under pressure, while investors waited to find out whether Britain's stagnant economy had fallen back into recession.
Markets are looking to the British first-quarter gross domestic product number (GDP), due at 0830 GMT (4.30 a.m. ET), to see whether it reinforces the gloomy global economic picture painted by recent releases from Germany, China and the United States.
"We had a run of weak data across the global board, I wouldn't be surprised to see a softer number coming out of the UK," said Rainer Guntermann, a strategist at Commerzbank.
Britain's $2.4-trillion economy is expected by analysts to have eked out growth of 0.1 percent in the first three months of 2013 to March, according to a Reuters poll. (ECON/GB)
That would avoid a second quarter of contraction - the definition of a recession - after GDP shrank by 0.3 percent in the final three months of last year.
The recent run of weak economic data, culminating news of the biggest drop for seven months in orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured products, saw the dollar fall 0.3 percent against a basket of major currencies (.DXY) to 82.7.
This helped the euro add about 0.2 percent to $1.3042 and move further away from a two-and-a-half-week low of $1.2954 recorded on Wednesday.
The single European currency was also being supported by falling government bond yields in heavily indebted Italy and Spain and by hopes that Italy is about to have a new coalition government after two months of post-election political deadlock.
Most of Europe's stock markets opened on a subdued note following two days of strong gains as the signs of a growing economic slowdown across the region increased talk that the European Central Bank will cut rates next week. Senior sources have told Reuters that momentum is building for monetary action to help revive growth.
The broad FTSE Eurofirst 300 index (.FTEU3) of top European shares gained about 0.2 percent in early trade, with the Paris CAC-40 (.FCHI) and Frankfurt's DAX (.GDAXI) flat to 0.2 percent higher. (.L)(.EU)
Britain's top share index, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE) was up 0.5 percent, setting a fresh three-week high, ahead of the national GDP data. U.S. stock futures were up 0.1 percent, indicating a calm Wall Street open. (.N)
Earlier MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.miapj0000pus> gained 0.7 percent, with Hong Kong shares (.HSI) rising 1.1 percent and hitting a three-week high, spurred by recovering commodity prices.
Gold and copper prices were close to one-week highs, while Brent crude oil held firm at $101.75 a barrel.
Three-month copper on the London Metal Exchange rose to $7,098 a metric ton (1.123 tons), its highest since April 18, before paring gains to be around $7,043.
Gold stood at $1,443 an ounce by having hit a high of $1,447.66 an ounce earlier in the session, its loftiest level since April 15, the day it posted its biggest ever daily drop in dollar terms.
(This story corrects the time of UK GDP release to 0830 GMT)
(Additional reporting Ana Nicolaci da Costa; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)