GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares, crude oil rise in wake of U.S. data

Last Updated: Wed, Mar 27, 2013 05:01 hrs

* Wall Street advances after upbeat U.S. economic data

* S&P 500 closes a whisker under all-time closing high

* Brent, U.S. oil futures settle higher

* Treasury prices rebound to trade higher

By Herbert Lash

NEW YORK, March 26 (Reuters) - Global equity markets and crude oil rose on Tuesday after housing and manufacturing data added to evidence of an improving U.S. economy and helped offset investor concerns about the Cyprus bailout.

Wall Street advanced on separate 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 the Conference Board, an industry group, reported that consumer confidence tumbled in March as Americans turned more pessimistic about short-term economic prospects, adding a note of caution to a market still skittish over Cyprus.

The S&P 500 surged in a late-day rally to close at its highest peak since this year's rally has attempted to break through the all-time closing high set in October 2007. The benchmark index closed 1.38 points below the record.

Michael Sheldon, chief market strategist at RDM Financial in Westport, Connecticut, said investors needed to see further improvement in the economy for equities to move higher.

The euro edged higher against the U.S. dollar but remained near four-month lows as concerns lingered over implications of the rescue plan for Cyprus, and whether it would shape any future plans 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 other debt-plagued 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 closed up 111.90 points, or 0.77 percent, at 14,559.65. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 12.08 points, or 0.78 percent, at 1,563.77. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained 17.18 points, or 0.53 percent, at 3,252.48.

Advancing volume and issues on the New York Stock Exchange were more than double declining volume and issues.

MSCI's all-country world index, which tracks 6,000 stocks in 45 countries, rose 0.42 percent to 359.29.

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 before settling higher, while U.S. crude pushed higher on the supportive economic data.

Brent rose $1.19 to settle at $109.36 a barrel. U.S. crude gained $1.53 to settle at $96.34 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 York.

The euro last traded at $1.2858, up 0.007 percent in a session of choppy trading.

Political uncertainty in Italy and the divergence of the weak European economy compared with the recovery in the United States, along with concerns over any fallout from Cyprus' crisis, may limit the single currency's upside.

U.S. government debt traded most of the session lower, but prices moved higher toward the end of day. The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up 2/32 in price to yield 1.9111 percent.

Gold, which typically benefits from economic uncertainty, fell. U.S. gold futures for April delivery settled down $8.80 at $1,595.70 an ounce. Spot gold prices fell $6.00 to $1,598.90.

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