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Stocks surge as investors shrug off US data

NEW YORK: Stocks on major world markets edged higher on Tuesday, holding near six-year highs as investors shrugged off mixed US economic data, while the US dollar rose against the yuan on suspicion China’s central bank intervened in the currency market.
Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 was near record highs, while MSCI’s all world index, which tracks stocks in 45 countries, was in positive territory for the 13th session in 15 and at its highest level since December 2007.
Recent data has fostered concerns about the strength of the US economy, though equities investors seem inclined to believe the severe winter weather is a large part of the weakness. The S&P/Case-Shiller index showed home prices rose slightly more than expected in December, though February consumer confidence fell short of expectations.
Uncertainty over China has stoked worries about a faster-than-projected slowdown in its massive economy, dovetailing with political worries in other big emerging markets like Ukraine, Thailand, Nigeria and Turkey.
The yuan continued several weeks of weakness, guided by a series of moves by the central bank aimed at instilling caution in those who for years have been betting on its rise versus other major currencies.
Tuesday brought a significant acceleration in the move. The yuan’s sharpest drop since December 2008 extended its fall in the past week to slightly over 1 percent, amid talk the People’s Bank of China had been discreetly intervening in the spot market.
In Europe, the pan-regional FTSEurofirst 300 was off 0.02 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 14.93 points, or 0.09 percent, at 16,222.07. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was up 0.86 points, or 0.05 percent, at 1,848.47. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 1.63 points, or 0.04 percent, at 4,291.34.
Gold prices have pushed to their highest level in four months. Spot gold hit its highest since Oct. 30 at $1,342.81 an ounce and was trading up 0.4 percent at $1,342.35 an ounce.
Oil prices faded just a little, with Brent crude at $109.81 a barrel and US oil at $101.59, weighed down by forecasts of rising US crude inventories as icy weather eases.