GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares, crude oil rise in wake of U.S. data

Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:54pm EDT

* Wall Street gains after upbeat U.S. data

* U.S. oil futures rise, Brent crude mostly flat

* Euro rises but vulnerable amid Cyprus concerns

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - Global equity markets and crude oil rose on Tuesday after more data pointed to an improving U.S. economy and helped offset any fallout from the Cyprus bailout.

Wall Street advanced on reports that showed demand for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods surged in February while U.S. single-family home prices started the year with the biggest annual increase since June 2006.

But a report from the Conference Board, an industry group, showing Americans turned more pessimistic in March about short-term prospects, caused consumer confidence to tumble and added a note of caution to a market still skittish over Cyprus.

The benchmark S&P 500 index remained just below its all-time closing high, as it has been for more than two weeks.

Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut, said investors needed to see further improvement in economic data for equity markets to hold this year's gains.

The euro edged higher against the U.S. dollar but remained near four-month lows as concerns lingered over the negative implications of a rescue plan for Cyprus, and if it would serve as a template for other euro zone economies requiring bailouts.

The single currency remains vulnerable to concern investors may shun euro zone assets or withdraw money from banks in countries like Spain and Italy.

"There's uncertainty in Europe as for what is the blueprint when (economies) need to be rescued," said Sheldon. "The market trend continues to be higher but investors are gun-shy in light of recent gains."

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 87.97 points, or 0.61 percent, at 14,535.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 8.56 points, or 0.55 percent, at 1,560.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.48 points, or 0.32 percent, at 3,245.78.

MSCI's all-country world index, which tracks 6,000 stocks in 45 countries, rose 0.22 percent to 358.59.

In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 of leading regional shares closed 0.21 percent higher at 1,188.89.

"Markets are struggling to find direction due to the confusing position taken by authorities in relation to Cyprus, although they're continuing to react to positive data from the United States," said Henk Potts, market strategist at Barclays.

Brent crude futures swung between gains and losses, while U.S. crude pushed higher on supportive economic data.

Brent rose 22 cents to $108.39 a barrel, in the middle of the $107 to $109 range of the past two weeks.

U.S. crude gained 88 cents to $95.69 a barrel.

"Solid housing data showing rising home prices pointed to a U.S. economy that continues to rebound, helping boost U.S. crude," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New York.

The euro last traded at $1.247, down 0.02 percent on the day, not far from Monday's low of $1.2829, its lowest since Nov. 22.

Political uncertainty in Italy and a diverging economic backdrop with the U.S., along with concerns over any fallout from Cyprus' crisis, may limit the single currency's upside, with a bleak outlook in the euro zone starkly contrasting with an improving U.S. landscape.

U.S. government debt and other safe-haven assets were lower. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 1/32 in price to yield 1.9163 percent.

Gold, which typically benefits from economic uncertainty, pushed to a three-week high of $1,616.36 an ounce last week on worries over the Cyprus bailout, but dropped to a 1-1/2 week low of $1,589.49 on Monday after the 11th-hour rescue.

Spot gold prices fell $9.91 to $1,594.90 an ounce.

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