The euro was the biggest gainer on Thursday, rallying sharply against the dollar, sterling and yen on the heels of a more hawkish sentiment conveyed by ECB officials.

The single currency jumped past the 1.20-handle versus the dollar, while gaining a full yen to 139.62 in the New York session.

The 25-bp ECB rate hike to 2.50% garnered a rather subdued response following the announcement at 7:45 AM EST, as it had already been fully discounted by the market.

Key for the euro was the subsequent press conference by ECB President Trichet and comments by ECB officials, who sounded a hawkish tone on forthcoming rate moves.

Economic data from the US saw only the release of weekly jobless claims, which rose 294,000, up from the previous week at 279,000.

The 4-week average also edged up to 287,250, from 282,000. Data for Friday will see the University of Michigan’s final February consumer confidence survey, which is forecasted to increase slightly to 87.5, from 87.4.

Also slated for release is the February non-manufacturing ISM index, expected to improve to 58.0, versus 56.8.