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

Fri May 23, 2014 3:19pm EDT

* Better-than-expected housing data lifts Wall Street to
record
    * Bond prices rise on safe-haven bid before Greece, Ukraine
voting
    * Brent settles above $110 on Ukraine, Libya support
    * Euro falls to 3-month low on German data, EU election
uncertainty

 (Adds oil settlement prices)
    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 on 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 the 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," he added.
    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 housing recovery is poised to
regain steam, the Commerce Department said. 
    MSCI's all-country world index rose 0.3
percent to 418.33, 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.
    The Dow Jones industrial average was up 60.57 points,
or 0.37 percent, at 16,603.65. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
 was up 7.91 points, or 0.42 percent, at 1,900.40. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 29.65 points, or 0.71
percent, at 4,183.99. 
    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 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 at $1.3633, down 0.15 percent. The
dollar gained 0.24 percent against the yen JPY+ at 101.96. 
    Brent crude held above $110 a barrel as U.S. crude futures
pushed higher, 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.
    Brent settled up 18 cents at $110.54 a barrel. U.S.
crude gained 61 cents to $104.35.
    Both Brent and U.S. crude futures posted consecutive weekly
gains.

    

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