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

Fri May 23, 2014 4:54pm EDT

* Better-than-expected housing data lifts Wall Street to new
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

 (Updates with close of U.S. trading)
    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, while yields on U.S.
Treasuries fell on uncertainty about elections in Ukraine over
the weekend. 
    The benchmark S&P 500 set a new closing high, closing above
the 1,900 mark for the first time. MSCI's measure of global
equity performance rose to highs last seen in November 2007,
just short of all-time highs that month.
    The day's gains held, contrary to beliefs there might be
selling pressure before the close as U.S. investors headed into
a three-day weekend with the Memorial Day holiday on Monday and
uncertainty over Ukraine's elections on Sunday.
    "There are still some concerns out there but they're not
manifesting themselves in the VIX," said Philip Orlando, chief
equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.
"There's a lot of complacency in the market at a point where the
market has had a nice little bounce back into the 1,900 area."
    The CBOE Volatility Index, closed down 5.6 percent at
11.36, its lowest level since March 2013.
    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 closed up 63.19
points, or 0.38 percent, at 16,606.27. The S&P 500 rose
8.04 points, or 0.42 percent, to 1,900.53 and the Nasdaq
Composite added 31.466 points, or 0.76 percent, to
4,185.808.
    For the week, the Dow rose 0.7 percent, the S&P 1.2 percent
and the Nasdaq gained 2.3 percent.   
    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 touched 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 $1.3627, down 0.2 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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