* Wall Street gains after upbeat U.S. data
* U.S. oil futures rise, Brent crude mostly flat
* Euro rises but vulnerable amid Cyprus concerns
By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - Global equity markets and
crude oil rose on Tuesday after more data pointed to an
improving U.S. economy and helped offset any fallout from the
Wall Street advanced on reports that showed demand for
long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods surged in February while
U.S. single-family home prices started the year with the biggest
annual increase since June 2006.
But a report from the Conference Board, an industry group,
showing Americans turned more pessimistic in March about
short-term prospects, caused consumer confidence to tumble and
added a note of caution to a market still skittish over Cyprus.
The benchmark S&P 500 index remained just below its all-time
closing high, as it has been for more than two weeks.
Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in
Westport, Connecticut, said investors needed to see further
improvement in economic data for equity markets to hold this
The euro edged higher against the U.S. dollar but remained
near four-month lows as concerns lingered over the negative
implications of a rescue plan for Cyprus, and if it would serve
as a template for other euro zone economies requiring bailouts.
The single currency remains vulnerable to concern investors
may shun euro zone assets or withdraw money from banks in
countries like Spain and Italy.
"There's uncertainty in Europe as for what is the blueprint
when (economies) need to be rescued," said Sheldon. "The market
trend continues to be higher but investors are gun-shy in light
of recent gains."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 87.97 points,
or 0.61 percent, at 14,535.72. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 8.56 points, or 0.55 percent, at 1,560.25. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 10.48 points, or 0.32
percent, at 3,245.78.
MSCI's all-country world index, which tracks
6,000 stocks in 45 countries, rose 0.22 percent to 358.59.
In Europe, the FTSEurofirst 300 of leading regional
shares closed 0.21 percent higher at 1,188.89.
"Markets are struggling to find direction due to the
confusing position taken by authorities in relation to Cyprus,
although they're continuing to react to positive data from the
United States," said Henk Potts, market strategist at Barclays.
Brent crude futures swung between gains and losses, while
U.S. crude pushed higher on supportive economic data.
Brent rose 22 cents to $108.39 a barrel, in the
middle of the $107 to $109 range of the past two weeks.
U.S. crude gained 88 cents to $95.69 a barrel.
"Solid housing data showing rising home prices pointed to a
U.S. economy that continues to rebound, helping boost U.S.
crude," said John Kilduff, partner at Again Capital LLC in New
The euro last traded at $1.247, down 0.02 percent on
the day, not far from Monday's low of $1.2829, its lowest since
Political uncertainty in Italy and a diverging economic
backdrop with the U.S., along with concerns over any fallout
from Cyprus' crisis, may limit the single currency's upside,
with a bleak outlook in the euro zone starkly contrasting with
an improving U.S. landscape.
U.S. government debt and other safe-haven assets were lower.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 1/32
in price to yield 1.9163 percent.
Gold, which typically benefits from economic uncertainty,
pushed to a three-week high of $1,616.36 an ounce last week on
worries over the Cyprus bailout, but dropped to a 1-1/2 week low
of $1,589.49 on Monday after the 11th-hour rescue.
Spot gold prices fell $9.91 to $1,594.90 an ounce.