* U.S. housing starts rise, jobless claims fall more than expected
* Trade in focus after latest U.S. sanctions on Huawei
* Trade tensions support dollar, euro dips before elections
* Oil prices rise on Middle East tensions (Updates with opening of U.S. markets; changes dateline, previous LONDON)
By Lewis Krauskopf
NEW YORK, May 16 (Reuters) - World stock markets and U.S. benchmark bond yields gained on Thursday following strong economic data as investors assessed the latest developments in global trade relations.
A spike in U.S.-China tensions over import tariffs has convulsed markets recently as investors seek to parse statements from government leaders to gauge the direction of talks.
News that President Donald Trump is expected to delay auto tariffs appeared to improve the trade tone on Wednesday, but later in the day the Trump administration hit Chinese telecoms giant Huawei with severe sanctions.
"The market is really having a hard time pricing in this trade war," said Mark Hackett, chief of investment research at Nationwide. "There was a belief earlier in the week that it was going to be catastrophic and we have gained back all of that decline. In my opinion, it is probably a little too optimistic to declare victory."
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 273.04 points, or 1.06%, to 25,921.06, the S&P 500 gained 37.33 points, or 1.31%, to 2,888.29 and the Nasdaq Composite added 107.94 points, or 1.38%, to 7,930.08.
Shares of Cisco Systems and Walmart both gave boosts to the S&P 500 and the Dow after their respective earnings reports. Cisco shares rose 6.4% and Walmart rose 3.3%.
The Philadelphia semiconductor index fell 0.9% following the Huawei news.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 1.14%.
MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe gained 0.82%.
U.S. homebuilding increased more than expected in April and activity in the prior month was stronger than initially thought. In a separate report, the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week.
U.S. Treasury yields rose following the strong economic data.
Benchmark 10-year notes last fell 9/32 in price to yield 2.4104%, from 2.379% late on Wednesday.
The U.S. dollar rose against a basket of currencies as investors focused on trade war tensions, while the euro was hurt by concerns about next week’s European parliamentary elections.
The dollar index rose 0.25%, with the euro down 0.23% to $1.1174.
"The risk is that we get more populist comments, such as from the Italian Deputy PM," said Credit Agricole FX strategist Manuel Olivieri. "Italy remains one of the factors keeping euro downside risks high."
Oil prices rose for a third day running as fears of supply disruption amid heightened tensions in the Middle East overshadowed swelling U.S. crude inventories.
U.S. crude rose 2.14% to $63.35 per barrel and Brent was last at $73.13, up 1.89% on the day.
Additional reporting by Karen Brettell in New York, Saikat Chatterjee in London; editing by Larry King and Dan Grebler