The U.S. dollar continues to trade with a heavier bias Thursday against the major and emerging market currencies. The yen and Swiss franc's softer tone appears to be largely a function of the return of risk appetites, though Japan did report much weaker-than-expected machine orders (down 9.1% vs. consensus of down 3%). Sterling is underperforming and in the U.K. there is the weak data in the form of a drop in the Halifax house price index and, while May industrial output data was better than expected, there was a dramatic downward revision to the April series (negative 0.7% from positive 0.4%>. Strong Australian jobs data (45,000 vs. consensus of 15,000) has propelled the Aussie sharply higher for the third consecutive session. It hit $0.8317 on Tuesday and is now near $0.8750. As widely anticipated, the Bank of England stood pat and the European Central Bank is expected to do the same. ECB's Jean-Claude Trichet's press conference is the main event of the session. Global equity markets were marching higher in the wake of the strong advance in North America Wednesday. The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index rose 1.7%, helped by commodity producers and banks. Expectations that the Reserve Bank of Australia may hike rates again did not deter buying of Australian stocks and the 2.4% rise in the S&P/ASX 200 was among the region's leaders, second only the Nikkei's 2.8% advance. Electronics, banks and autos were particularly strong. Of note, China's Shanghai Index was the only major market that lost ground. European bourses were generally higher. Basic materials and financials were among the strongest sectors in the Dow Jones Stoxx 600. However, note that Spain's IBEX is struggling, losing about 0.25% near midday in London and the banking sector is underperforming that. Global bond markets remain mostly firmer despite the recovery in the equity markets.