GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares, dollar rise on strong U.S. trade data

Tue Jan 7, 2014 12:19pm EST

* U.S. trade deficit smallest in four years

* Wall Street, European equity markets rise

* Dollar gains on trade data, might boost growth estimates

* Oil rises on Mideast, U.S. supply concerns

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Global equity markets rose and the dollar strengthened on Tuesday on news of the lowest U.S. trade deficit in four years, the latest evidence of a more robust American economy.

A report that showed German unemployment unexpectedly fell in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the first drop since July, bolstered hopes that domestic consumption could lift growth in Europe's biggest economy.

A successful Irish debt sale, the government's first since the country exited an international bailout in December, was hailed as a sign Europe's battered periphery was on the road to recovery, boosting European equity indexes to 5-1/2 year highs.

The U.S. Commerce Department said the trade gap fell 12.9 percent to $34.3 billion in November, the smallest deficit since October 2009. October's shortfall on the trade balance was revised down to $39.3 billion from a previously reported $40.6 billion.

The bigger-than-expected November decline - economists polled by Reuters forecast the trade deficit would slip to $40.0 billion - could spur higher estimates for fourth-quarter growth.

The upbeat data helped turn sentiment in equity markets after a slow start to the year, building on a record flow of fresh investment to stocks and related securities in 2013.

"Today we had some good news again so this momentum building up for the last five years is going to continue to pull the market higher," said Uri Landesman, president of Platinum Partners, a New York-based multi-strategy hedge fund.

"People realize how much the market has been up, so there's the desire to take profits," he said, adding that it is offset by "incredible upward momentum."

U.S.-listed equity mutual funds and exchange-traded funds took in a record $352 billion in 2013, topping a previous record $324 billion in 2000, according to TrimTabs Investment Research.

MSCI's all-country world stock index rose 0.35 percent, while the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares climbed 0.79 percent to a provisional close of 1,319.54.

The benchmark S&P 500 was on track for the first gain of the new year.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 106.19 points, or 0.65 percent, to 16,531.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 9.66 points, or 0.53 percent, at 1,836.43. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 32.56 points, or 0.79 percent, at 4,146.24.

All 10 S&P sectors rose on the day, led by healthcare , after Deutsche Bank upgraded UnitedHealth Group Inc to "buy."

Shares of UnitedHealth, a Dow component, jumped 4.0 percent to $77.21, while Tenet Healthcare climbed 3.87 percent to $45.67 as the S&P's biggest percentage gainer.

Earlier, Asian shares fell for a fourth day, led by a 0.6 percent drop on Tokyo's Nikkei index.

The dollar gained, buoyed by the U.S. trade data. Stronger growth could prompt the Federal Reserve to speed up the tapering of its monthly bond purchases.

However, Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, said low inflation keeps the U.S. economy vulnerable and he reiterated a warning that policy stimulus should be removed "only gradually." Rosengren is one of the most dovish of U.S. central bankers.

The dollar traded 0.32 percent higher at 104.54 yen, but remained below a five-year peak of 105.44 yen set last week. The euro was last down 0.09 percent at $1.3615.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, was up 0.21 percent at 80.821 .

Brent oil rose above $107 a barrel after five straight decline, supported by doubts about a recovery in Libyan output, fighting in Iraq and as cold weather across the central United States threatened production.

Brent crude was up 68 cents to $107.41, after settling lower in the previous five sessions, partly on expectations of rising Libyan exports. U.S. crude was 55 cents higher at $93.98.

U.S. government bond prices rose, with the 10-year U.S. Treasury note up 4/32 in price to yield 2.9465 percent.

German Bund futures settled up 22 ticks at 139.76 euros.

Bumper demand for Ireland's debt sale pushed its borrowing costs to an eight-year low and the Spanish government's costs to the lowest since 2009.

Demand for Irish 10-year debt was nearly four times the 3.75 billion euro issue, boosting sentiment across the euro zone periphery and pushing down regional bond yields. The sale could make it easier for Portugal to exit its bailout.

Irish 10-year bond yields fell to 3.27 percent, 10-year Greek yields fell to their lowest since June 2010 at 7.83 percent and Portuguese yields dropped to 5.42 percent - their lowest since last May.

Ten-year Spanish yields fell to their lowest since December 2009 at 3.798 percent and equivalent Italian yields were at 3.88 percent.

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