By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major stock indexes in Germany and the United States hit all-time highs on Tuesday after data bolstered expectations that Germany has returned to growth, and a successful bond sale in Portugal indicated the country is on track to exit its bailout.
The euro firmed against most currencies following the strong data on German industrial orders. Earlier, the Reserve Bank of Australia surprised markets with a cut in interest rates to a record low, highlighting the pressure a stubbornly high currency is putting on the resource-exporting economy.
The MSCI index of global shares, which tracks stocks in 45 countries, edged past its June 2008 high, and Germany's DAX index notched a record high, topping the previous high set in 2007.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 touched an intraday record high of 1,623.74.
The success of Portugal's first 10-year bond in more than two years, in addition to putting the country on course to exit its bailout on time, qualifies it for an ECB debt support program.
Portugal was hoping to raise 3 billion euros from the syndicated benchmark sale, for which European books alone closed at 9 billion euros, Thomson Reuters news and information service IFR reported, with bidders seeking a return of around 5.6 percent.
"What's nice to see is that this level, as well as Portugal's secondary market yields, are all below the 6 percent danger zone," said David Schnautz, debt strategist at Commerzbank in New York.
"If they don't overdo it, a 3 billion euro placement with a strong order book would support Portugal's comeback story in the market," Schnautz said.
In another sign of economic strength in Europe, Germany, the region's largest economy, reported a rise in industrial orders in March, confounding expectations for a drop.
Seasonally and price-adjusted data showed industrial orders rising by 2.2 percent in March from the previous month. Economists in a Reuters poll had expected orders to drop by 0.5 percent in March.
"The recovery is on its way. We have had two consecutive strong increases now. Industry has left the worst behind it but industrial production may still have shrunk in the first quarter," said Rainer Sartoris of HSBC Trinkaus.
The DAX (.GDAXI) became the first of the major European indexes to breach the peaks set in 2007, rising as high as 8,173.19 points and following in the footsteps of the U.S. S&P 500 which has been setting record highs since mid-April (.SPX).
In early afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 34.52 points or 0.23 percent, to 15,003.41, the S&P 500 gained 3 points or 0.19 percent, to 1,620.5 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 4.25 points or 0.13 percent, to 3,388.72.
MSCI's global index edged past its June 2008 high after Japan's stock market, which had been closed on Monday, soared in a delayed reaction to Friday's strong U.S. jobs data. The global index was up 0.5 percent at 372.79.
Recent gains in U.S. equities have come on strength in technology and banking shares, sectors that are closely related to an economy in expansion.
"If this rotation into cyclical stocks from defensive ones continues, that will be a very healthy sign for us," said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets in New York.
He said, however, that Wall Street could drift along this week with little in the U.S. data calendar to give the market direction.
"All the recent catalysts have been priced in and markets are at a level they're comfortable with," Hogan said.
With key economies like the United States seeing a patchy recovery but others struggling to maintain growth, major central banks around the world have shown over the last few weeks they intend to keep stimulus flowing freely for the time being.
Australia's central bank cut rates to a low of 2.75 percent on Tuesday and suggested it may ease further. The move came after the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, on Monday reiterated the ECB's readiness to trim rates again if needed, after a rate cut last week.
The growth-linked Aussie dollar was last at US$1.0161, down 0.8 percent on the day.
Spanish and Italian bond yields - a proxy for borrowing costs - edged lower while safe-haven German Bund yields were at a near four-week high.
U.S. Treasuries yields rose to three-week highs as traders prepared for the sale of $32 billion in new three-year notes.
Benchmark 10-year note yields rose to 1.78 percent, up from 1.76 percent on Monday and the highest since April 12.
Even so, many analysts see yields as unlikely to march significantly higher, barring new signs that the economic recovery shows greater resilience than expected.
"One decent number is not strong enough to completely change the mood of market players," said Jason Rogan, managing director of Treasuries trading at Guggenheim Partners in New York. "We're getting close to a point where you might start to see some buying."
Prospects the U.S. economy will lead global growth lifted industrial commodities, although persistent worries about demand from top consumers such as China tempered gains.
Three-month copper hit a three-week high of $7,374 a ton, but pared gains and was recently up 0.1 percent at $7,280.25. Copper on Monday posted its largest daily percentage gain since October 2011, though prices are more than 8 percent lower for the year.
Brent crude oil prices were choppy after three days of strong gains, supported by strong German data, central bank policy and tension in the Middle East.
Brent was last off 0.3 percent at $105.14 while U.S. crude shed 0.6 percent to $95.56.
(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica, Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss, Karen Brettell and Simon Falush; Editing by Leslie Adler)