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INTERNATIONAL - World stocks have climbed and equity volatility neared a record low yesterday as investors focused on signs of strong economic growth ahead of a slew of central bank rate decisions, while the launch of bitcoin futures has fed the market’s cryptocurrency obsession.

European stocks drew strength from a positive Asian session to trade higher across the board.

MSCI’s main European Index rose 0.1percent while the index of leading European companies gained 0.2percent.

Britain’s FTSE climbed 0.6percent.

Stealing the spotlight was the debut of bitcoin futures contracts, allowing investors to bet on the price of the cryptocurrency in one, two or three months.

The one-month contract, the most-traded on the Chicago Board Options Exchange Global Markets exchange, opened at $15850 on Sunday night - a gain of 21percent.

It was last quoted at $18600, while bitcoin hovered at $16431.76.

Bitcoin has rocketed up a gravity-defying 1600 percent since the start of the year.

“The one-month contract is trading at around an 11percent premium to the underlying bitcoin, and for me that’s a clear indication that there’s no connection between the two markets,” said Lukas Daalder, chief investment officer at Robeco.

“I can understand you don’t see that many people who are willing to offer this contract, because you can’t hedge your underlying risk if you can’t short it,” Daalder added.

“This only adds to the bitcoin phenomenon. It’s interesting to watch, but not a market that I would like to touch."