* Stocks push higher as recent data underpins sentiment
* Gains in France lead European stocks higher
* Dollar firms versus yen, euro steady
* Oil prices slips below $110 a barrel
By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, Feb 21 Global equity markets rose and
the dollar traded mixed on Friday as investors warmed to recent
data that has underpinned hopes for sustained U.S. economic
strengthening even as new data showed home resales fell to an 18
month-low last month.
Cold weather and a lack of housing stock sidelined potential
home buyers in January, the National Association of Realtors
said on Friday, in the latest report indicating that severe
winter weather has dragged on economic growth.
Home sales dropped 5.1 percent to an annual rate of 4.62
million units, the lowest level since July 2012, the trade group
said. Economists polled by Reuters had expected sales to fall to
a 4.68 million pace last month.
Major equity indexes in Europe and across the Americas rose,
with a measure of global equity activity, MSCI's all-country
world index, rising 0.51 percent.
"Markets have come to accept that the U.S. economy is
growing moderately and that inflation should remain tame. This
is a good combo for stocks and other risk assets," said Steven
Einhorn, vice chairman of hedge fund Omega Advisors Inc in New
Corporate results also helped lift equity markets.
Priceline.com Inc jumped 3.4 percent to $1,327.14,
and was one of the S&P 500's biggest gainers. The online travel
booking company reported results that beat expectations after
Wednesday's market close.
The Dow Jones industrial average rose 40.78 points,
or 0.25 percent, to 16,174.01. The S&P 500 gained 5.19
points, or 0.28 percent, to 1,844.97 and the Nasdaq Composite
added 14.715 points, or 0.34 percent, to 4,282.26.
In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top
regional shares was up 0.36 percent at 1,343.65 points, led by a
0.6 percent rise in France's CAC 40 index to a
A recent trend of companies in France delivering decent
profits and better outlooks, in contrast to last year when a
weak economy hit earnings and caused the CAC to underperform,
has lifted the French benchmark.
French-listed oil services group Technip and
construction firm Saint-Gobain rose 2.71 percent and
3.86 percent, respectively, as banks lifted their target prices
for the stocks after they reported results earlier in the week.
"Many are calling the French economy the sick man of Europe,
but people are buying the future. France has so much potential
to improve," Markus Huber, senior sales trader at Peregrine &
The dollar rose against a basket of currencies, on track for
its first weekly gain in three weeks. The dollar index
rose 0.09 percent to 80.360. Against the yen, the dollar edged
up 0.49 percent to 102.76 yen.
The euro rose 0.04 percent to $1.3724.
Brent crude oil slipped below $110 a barrel but remained on
course for its highest weekly close this year, as supply
disruptions in Africa tightened the market.
Domestic conflicts in Libya and south Sudan, as well as
escalating protests in Venezuela, have helped support spot oil
prices at a time when winter heating demand in the northern
hemisphere is close to its peak.
Brent crude futures for April were down 51 cents at
$109.79 a barrel. U.S. crude futures for April delivery
dropped 54 cents to $102.21.
U.S. government bond prices were mixed, with the 10-year
note trading near break-even to yield 2.7535
percent. The price of the 30-year long bond rose 6/32 to yield