(REUTERS) -- The U.S. dollar weakened while world stocks and gold rose on Thursday after the Federal Reserve set out an unambiguously easier policy stance, but fears of a messy Greek debt default limited gains for the euro.

U.S. stock index futures also pointed to further gains on Wall Street ahead of the release of U.S. weekly initial jobless claims data.

But the focus was on a dovish Fed statement and the pledge from Chairman Ben Bernanke to embark on a further round of so-called quantitative easing, or QE3, if warranted by economic conditions.

It would clearly be helpful if we had a result (on Greece) but focus is on the Fed. I think the dollar will stay under pressure for a few days, said George Saravelos, G10 FX strategist at Deutsche Bank.

Bernanke also said the U.S. central bank was likely to keep interest rates near zero until at least late 2014, a longer period than many had expected, and unveiled an inflation target of 2 percent.

Riskier asset markets around the world rallied in the wake of the Fed's statement, and the safe-haven U.S. dollar fell against a broad range of currencies, despite the implications of the policy stance for the U.S. growth outlook.

It tells us an awful lot about the state of the economy in the United States. If the Fed is telling us interest rates are going to stay low the recovery must be fragile, Louise Cooper, markets analyst at BGC Partners, said.

The MSCI world equity index was up 0.85 percent to 319.04, extending its strong start to 2012 with gains of over 6.5 percent for the year to date.

Markets in Asia also strengthened, with the MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rising 1.25 percent to its highest level in nearly three months.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of leading European shares was up 0.7 percent to 1,047.20 points, led by mining stocks which, like commodities, benefit from a cheaper dollar.

The single currency hit a session peak of $1.3175, its highest level since Dec. 21, and was last trading up 0.3 percent on the day at $1.3115. It has rallied from around $1.2980 before the Fed statement on Wednesday.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of other currencies, eased to around 79.27, near a five-week low.

The main surprise was they (the U.S. Fed) were unequivocally dovish in their statement, which suggested they do not need data to deteriorate to justify easing monetary policy further, said Michael Sneyd, FX strategist at BNP Paribas.


Greece remains in focus, with the top negotiator for private creditors set to resume talks later on Thursday with officials on a debt swap deal as the clock ticks down to a March deadline when Greece faces major bond redemptions.

The European Central Bank, which is the Greek government's largest single creditor, is now also part of the mix after IMF chief Christine Lagarde said public sector holders of Greek debt may need to take losses too.

Italy drew strong demand at a 5 billion euro sale of zero coupon and inflation-linked bonds, boding well for 5- and 10-year debt auctions on Monday.

Ten-year Italian bond yields are just above 6 percent, down from peaks late last year above the 7 percent danger level beyond which other countries sought bailouts.

Concerns about the lack of progress in Greek debt talks spread to Portugal, sending five- and 10-year government bond yields to euro lifetime highs.

Portugal will need to restructure at some point as, like Greece, they relied a lot on foreign investors and don't have the domestic market to buy their bonds like Italy and Spain, said Alessandro Giansanti, rate strategist at ING.

German government bonds were firmer, in line with the rise in U.S. Treasuries which followed the Fed's statement.

The March Bund futures contract was 39 ticks higher at 138.21, though it failed to break through Monday's 138.45 high. Ten-year bond yields were about 2.5 basis points lower at 1.92 percent.

The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond edged down to 1.953 percent from 2.002 percent in late U.S. trade.

Gold, which posted its biggest one-day gain in four months on Wednesday, was at its highest level in more than a month in choppy trade due to the Fed's pledge to keep rates at rock-bottom for at least two more years.

In Europe, gold was steady at $1,716.10 an ounce after reaching its highest since early December.

Low interest rates often make zero-yielding gold more attractive, while minimal borrowing costs also tend to fuel a gradual increase in commodity prices, supporting gold's traditional role as a hedge against inflation.