Investors across the world lapped up the promise of free money and its impact on global economic growth after U.S. Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke indicated that he was in no rush to tighten monetary policy.
Only U.S. investors appeared uncertain -- perhaps because of doubts over first-quarter U.S. GDP numbers, due at 8:30 a.m. (ET). Stock futures for the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq were little changed, and the U.S. dollar slid to its lowest in almost three years.
That lifted commodities across the board, with crude hitting a 30-month high of $113.70 (U.S.) a barrel and gold futures a lifetime high of $1,534 an ounce.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback's performance against a basket of major currencies, fell to as low as 72.871 -- a level last seen in July 2008. The loonie rose as high as $1.0565 (U.S.).
Mr. Bernanke said on Wednesday the Fed would complete its $600-billion bond-buying programme in June but keep interest rates close to zero because of stubborn unemployment.
European shares gained in early trade, up 0.2 percent. World stocks as measured by the MSCI All-Country World Index were up 0.7 percent.
Britain's FTSE 100 was 0.1 percent higher to 6,073.71. Germany's DAX rose 0.4 percent, and France's CAC-40 was up 0.6 percent to 4,095.28.
Japan’s Nikkei average rose 1.6 percent, while stocks elsewhere in Asia gained 0.4 percent.