World stocks hit their highest level since September 2008 on Thursday while oil held near a two-year peak as favorable U.S. data reinforced expectations economic growth will retain momentum into next year.

Wednesday's upwardly revised data showing the U.S. economy expanded at 2.6 percent in the third quarter, coupled with recent retail sales figures, pointed to firmer economic activity in the world's largest economy.

Stronger banking stocks helped the S&P 500 index hit its highest level since the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

The corporate picture still looks very bright, the trend toward higher profits is going to continue and public policies should remain shareholder-friendly, said Henk Potts, equity strategist at Barclays Wealth.

In terms of the macro environment, we would expect most of the economies to keep growing and that is a pretty powerful mix. The MSCI world equity index was up 0.1 percent, having earlier hit 328.89, its highest since early September 2008. The index has gained nearly 10 percent this year. The Thomson Reuters global stock index rose 0.1 percent.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index was up slightly on the day, having hit a 27-month peak earlier, while emerging stocks were steady. Tokyo was shut for a holiday.

U.S. crude oil stood at $90.48 a barrel, within half a cent of the Wednesday peak that was the highest since October 2008.

Abnormally cold weather in the United States and Europe has spurred the rally above $90, the latest leg in a more than 40 percent rise from a year low in May.

Bund futures were steady on the day.

The dollar fell 0.1 percent against a basket of major currencies while the yen rose 0.7 percent to 82.99 per dollar

in a flow-driven, thin-liquidity trading.

A recent run of positive U.S. data and persistent concerns about the euro zone debt crisis are raising expectations that the dollar would trade on a firmer tone into the new year.

Broad-based dollar appreciation in 2011 is possible, reflecting our optimism that the U.S. economy could be entering a period of economic growth that surprises the financial markets. Our profile for dollar strength for 2011 will show the larger part of appreciation taking place in H1 2011, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ said in a note to clients.

The euro steadied at $1.3100, drawing support from comments out of China.

Beijing is willing to help countries in the euro zone return to economic health and will support the International Monetary Fund bailout package for the bloc, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by John Stonestreet)