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Global shares edge higher on U.S. data; dollar gains

By Sam Forgione

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global equity markets rose on Thursday, boosted by solid U.S. economic data and upbeat results from some U.S. companies, including General Electric, while the dollar rose after a joint call by major powers for an end to the fighting in Ukraine.

Currencies have seesawed on fears that increased bloodshed between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian fighters in the eastern part of Ukraine might escalate into a full-blown civil war. Tensions have been on the rise since Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region last month, and armed protesters in eastern Ukraine have captured several towns.

Separatists attacked a Ukrainian national guard base overnight in the worst fighting so far in a 10-day pro-Russian uprising. The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union on Thursday issued a joint statement calling for the violence to end.

"The statement reduces the geopolitical concerns that have been overhanging the market. That's why we've seen a pop up in Treasuries yields and the dollar," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.

The joint statement spurred traders to trim their safe-haven holdings in the Japanese yen and Swiss franc, and boosted the Russian rouble to its highest level against the dollar in seven days.

It also spurred selling in safe-haven U.S. government bonds. The benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 23/32 in price to yield 2.72 percent.

The rising tension in Ukraine did not affect U.S. stocks, which were little changed. Strong results from industrial conglomerate GE and investment bank Morgan Stanley were offset by disappointing results late on Wednesday from IBM and Google.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback versus a basket of six currencies, rose 0.065 points or 0.08 percent, to 79.868.

The MSCI world equity index, which tracks shares in 45 nations, rose 1.15 points or 0.28 percent, to 410.53.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 16.31 points or 0.1 percent, to 16,408.54, the S&P 500 gained 2.54 points, or 0.14 percent, to 1,864.85, and the Nasdaq Composite added 9.291 points, or 0.23 percent, to 4,095.516.

U.S. markets will be closed on Friday in observance of the Good Friday holiday.

Morgan Stanley reported a 55 percent jump in first-quarter earnings, General Electric posted a 12 percent rise in overall industrial profits, and both earnings and revenue of Goldman Sachs beat market estimates.

"The market is digesting the sharp move we've seen this week and is doing its best to ignore the results from IBM and Google, which didn't look great," said Steve Sosnick, equity risk manager at Timber Hill/Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The number of Americans filing initial claims for jobless benefits rose less than expected in the latest week and factory activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region expanded in April at a faster clip than expected.

The U.S. Labor Department said initial claims for unemployment benefits ticked up 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 304,000 for the week ended April 12, near the 6-1/2-year low touched the prior week.

The Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank said its business activity index rose to 16.6 from 9.0 in March. A reading above zero indicates expansion in the mid-Atlantic region's manufacturing.

European equities finished higher. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed up 0.46 percent.

Brent crude settled down 7 cents at $109.53 a barrel. U.S. crude settled up 54 cents at $104.30 a barrel. U.S. COMEX gold futures for June delivery settled down $9.60 at $1,293.90 an ounce.

(Reporting by Sam Forgione in New York; Additional reporting by Carolyn Cohn in London and Richard Leong in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler)