* Euro gains on ECB official comments
* U.S. data keeps equities under pressure
* Weak UK GDP and German Ifo data add to growth worries
* Concerns over Spain and Greece persist (Updates to U.S. market open, adds comment, changes byline, dateline, previous LONDON)
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, July 25 (Reuters) - The euro rose on Wednesday as tools to prevent the euro zone debt crisis from spreading further were put on the table by a European Central Bank official, but weak European and U.S. data hurt stocks.
The S&P 500 turned negative in early trading after data showed a large drop in new home sales, but the Dow jumped boosted by Caterpillar and Boeing as both manufacturers lifted their 2012 forecasts.
Apple’s rare revenue miss and the stock’s 4.5 percent drop weighed on the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index.
ECB Governing Council member Ewald Nowotny said there were arguments for giving Europe’s new permanent rescue fund a banking license, enabling it to borrow unlimited central bank money and boosting its capacity to prevent the crisis from spreading even more.
Analysts said the market may have put too much emphasis on the comments, given other ECB officials’ opposition to the idea. Investors would likely sell into the euro’s rally, the analysts said.
“The market is desperate and jumping on anything that even looks remotely positive,” said Geoff Kendrick, currency strategist at Nomura.
The euro rose 0.6 percent to $1.2132, although the outlook remains weak and it is only just above a two-year low of $1.2042 hit Tuesday.
The single currency pared some of its initial gains against the dollar after data showed new U.S. single-family home sales in June fell by the most in more than a year and prices resumed their downward trend.
U.S. equities also pared slight gains posted at the open.
“The backdrop shows housing is still far from healed, with the last few months showing decelerating jobs growth,” said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets in New York.
The Dow Jones industrial average gained 68.87 points, or 0.55 percent, to 12,686.19. The S&P 500 Index dipped 0.97 point, or 0.07 percent, to 1,337.34. The Nasdaq Composite fell 12.70 points, or 0.44 percent, to 2,850.29.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was flat at 1,018.59 points at 1408 GMT, having traded as high as 1,023.74 points in volatile morning trade.
The MSCI world equity index edged 0.1 percent lower and has fallen 2.8 percent this week as concerns about the impact of Europe’s problems on growth spread across the world.
Support from central banks has been expected by markets for weeks as economic data sags globally. A weak reading on Britain’s gross domestic product and a German business sentiment survey added to worries about slowing growth.
Despite a sluggish recovery and some analysts suggesting the U.S. economy may already be in recession, the S&P 500 hit its highest level in 2-1/2 months last week.
Top Fed officials recently spelled out what measures they might take to boost growth and hiring.
The gains in the euro came despite the weak economic data from Germany and Britain, which reinforced the view that even the European Union’s biggest economies were being damaged by the debt crisis.
German business sentiment dropped in July for the third straight month to its lowest level in over two years, according to the latest survey by the Munich-based Ifo think tank.
Greece was also back in the headlines with inspectors from the EU, ECB and International Monetary Fund in Athens to decide whether to keep it hooked up to a 130 billion euro lifeline or let it face default.
Three EU officials have said the team was likely to conclude Greece cannot repay what it owes, making a further debt restructuring necessary, but no decision is expected until at least September.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 3/32, with the yield at 1.4008 percent after earlier rising as high as 1.44 percent. The yield hit an all-time low on Tuesday. (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Additional reporting by Julie Haviv and Nick Olivari; Editing by Kenneth Barry)