GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares rise on U.S. housing data; Ukraine vote looms

Fri May 23, 2014 1:04pm EDT

* Better-than-expected housing data lift Wall Street to
record
    * Bond prices rise on Greece, Ukraine election worries
    * Brent steady above $110 as Ukraine, Libya support
    * Euro falls to 3-month low on German data, EU election
uncertainty

 (Adds close of European bond, stock markets)
    By Herbert Lash
    NEW YORK, May 23 (Reuters) - Global equity markets edged
higher on Friday after better-than-expected U.S. housing data
lifted Wall Street into record territory, but yields on
Treasuries fell over uncertainty about elections in Ukraine over
the weekend. 
    The benchmark S&P 500 rose above a closing record high set
10 days ago, but was still shy of an all-time intraday high
above 1,900. MSCI's measure of global equity performance closed
in on all-time peaks last seen in November 2007.
    But gains were likely a precursor to selling pressure before
the close when U.S. investors are likely to fret about the
outcome of the Ukraine elections over a long weekend.
    "You had a positive data point this morning with the new
home sales and the revision of the prior month, so all that's
great," said Philip Orlando, chief equity market strategist at
Federated Investors in New York.
    "But it would not surprise me if we saw some profit-taking
toward the end of the day to position going into the long
weekend with this Ukraine-Russia standoff out there on the
horizon," Orlando said.
    Sales of new U.S. single-family homes rose more than
expected in April and the number of houses on the market hit a
3-1/2 year-high, further signs the sputtering housing recovery
was poised to regain steam, the Commerce Department said.
 
    MSCI's all-country world index rose 0.25
percent to 418.16, about 2.4 percent from all-time peaks set in
November 2007.
    In Europe, the FTSEuroFirst 300 index of leading regional
shares closed up 0.21 percent to 1,369.17 points.
    The Dow Jones industrial average rose 56.69 points,
or 0.34 percent, to 16,599.77. The S&P 500 gained 6.98
points, or 0.37 percent, to 1,899.47 and the Nasdaq Composite
 added 20.141 points, or 0.48 percent, to 4,174.483.
    Traders sought safe-haven bonds on the belief that elections
in Greece and Ukraine could result in market volatility,
including renewed worries of a Greek exit from the euro currency
and the potential for greater tensions surrounding Ukraine. 
    "European parliamentary elections and Ukraine elections are
key events in the near term which could be driving people into
the safety of U.S. Treasuries," said Robbert Van Batenburg,
director of market strategy at Newedge USA LLC in New York.
    If Greece's leftist Syriza party wins, its leaders could
reject the government's austerity policies and threaten to leave
the euro zone, he said. If pro-separatist voters in eastern
Ukraine fail to participate, it could stoke further tensions
between Russia and Ukraine.
    U.S. government bond prices rose, with the 10-year note
 up 5/32, yielding 2.5356 percent.
    The euro fell to a three-month low of $1.3614 and a 17-month
trough against the pound after soft German business sentiment
stoked expectations the European Central Bank will lower
interest rates next month. Concerns that Sunday's European Union
election results could destabilize some euro zone governments
also weighed on the euro.
    The euro was last $1.3625, down 0.21 percent. 
    Brent oil was supported by the crises in Ukraine and Libya
as well as positive economic data in the world's top two oil
consumers, the United States and China. Investors kept watch on
elections in Ukraine, a main gas supply route.
    Brent was up 11 cents at $110.47 a barrel. The
contract touched $111.04 the previous day, the highest since
March 4. U.S. crude gained 73 cents to $104.47.
    

 (Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Nick Zieminski and
Meredith Mazzilli)
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