(Adds oil prices settled; adds investor quote; updates throughout)
* Most stock indexes firmer, new U.S. home sales soar
* Oil prices reverse losses on Reuters' report of Iran signals
* NZ$ up as central bank flags just 35 bps of easing
By Hilary Russ
NEW YORK, Aug 23 (Reuters) - Homebuilders helped lift both U.S. and European stock markets on Tuesday, while oil prices got a boost from Iran's positive signals about an output freeze.
On Wall Street, technology companies led the Nasdaq to a record intraday high and robust housing market data strengthened the case for a firming economy. stocks jumped 2 percent .HGX after the Commerce Department reported new U.S. single-family home sales unexpectedly soared in July to near nine-year highs. equities rose 0.9 percent .STOXX , led by mining stocks, after data pointed to continuing gradual improvement in the region's economy. there also saw a bounce following a solid update from UK homebuilder Persimmon PSN.L , which closed 4.2 percent higher and was the biggest riser on the blue-chip FTSE 100 .FTSE . The index closed at its highest level since the UK voted to leave the European Union. housing data helped traders fill the gap as markets await further clues on whether the Federal Reserve will raise U.S. interest rates this year, ahead of an annual gathering of global central bankers and a speech by Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Friday in the mountains of Wyoming.
"If we continue to keep getting strong economic data it will become hard for the Fed to rationalize not hiking rates," said Erik Wytenus, global investment specialist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Palm Beach Florida.
The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI rose 29.45 points, or 0.16 percent, to 18,558.87, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 6.01 points, or 0.28 percent, to 2,188.65 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 19.21 points, or 0.37 percent, to 5,263.81.
Oil prices jumped as much as 2 percent, reversing earlier losses, after Reuters reported that Iran was sending positive signals that it may support joint OPEC action to prop up the market. crude LCOc1 settled up 80 cents, or 1.6 percent, at $49.96 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 rose 69 cents, or 1.5 percent, to close at $48.10.
The bump in new home sales helped the U.S. dollar trim losses, though the greenback was still down 0.02 percent to 94.54 against a basket of major currencies .DXY .
New Zealand's dollar, meanwhile, was up 0.47 percent at $0.7302 NZD=D4 after the country's central bank forecast another 35 basis points in possible rate cuts, less than many investors had wagered on. (U.S.) dollar is weakening ... due to the general anticipation around Jackson Hole on Friday," said Saxo bank's head of FX strategy John Hardy.
"There is also a general reach for yield happening. That was one of the things we saw with (New Zealand central bank governor) Wheeler waving the white flag that he is not going to use easing to try and weaken the currency."
In focus later on Tuesday, will be the first of this week's reports on U.S. inventories, which analysts expect will show a decline in crude and gasoline stocks. EIA/S
<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Global assets in 2016
http://reut.rs/1WAiOSC European economic overview
http://link.reuters.com/vyx93w Currencies in 2016
http://link.reuters.com/tak27s Emerging markets in 2016
http://reut.rs/1ZKAaO6 Oil prices
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