US STOCKS-Wall St rises after BOJ move, but U.S. jobs data a drag

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 04, 2013 20:40 hrs

* Jobless claims disappoint, following private sector report

* Best Buy rallies on plan to sell discounted iPads

* Facebook shares rise on new app software, Google falls

* Dow up 0.4 pct; S&P up 0.4 pct; Nasdaq up 0.2 pct

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, April 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks ended slightly higher on Thursday after the Bank of Japan announced aggressive, market-lifting policies to jump-start its economy, but weak U.S. jobs data capped gains.

The BOJ's surprisingly aggressive stimulus plan came along with supportive comments from European and Federal Reserve officials, suggesting central bank policies will keep underpinning the world's economy to the benefit of stocks.

The iShares MSCI Japan Index exchange-traded fund jumped 4 percent to $10.89, while U.S.-listed shares of Toyota Motor climbed 4.7 percent to $105.63 and WisdomTree Japan ETF jumped 7.5 percent to $43.88.

The financial sector was among the best performing, with the S&P 500 financial index up 0.9 percent.

The Fed's stimulus efforts along with signs of improvement in the U.S. economy have helped stocks rally since the start of the year. While the S&P 500 broke above its closing record last week, it has yet to surpass its intraday record high of 1,576.09, and investors have mostly pulled back from the market this week.

"The Fed officials certainly have been going out of their way to point out that they're staying the course and sticking with their program, which has probably been reassuring for markets," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

An unexpected jump in U.S. weekly jobless claims to a four-month high raised questions about the labor market's recovery a day ahead of the U.S. government's widely watched monthly jobs report. A report on Wednesday showed U.S. companies hired at the slowest pace in five months in March.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 55.76 points, or 0.38 percent, at 14,606.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 6.29 points, or 0.40 percent, at 1,559.98. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 6.38 points, or 0.20 percent, at 3,224.98.

The S&P 500 is up 9.4 percent since the start of the year.

Among the latest comments from Fed officials, Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, suggested the Fed's program to stimulate the economy would continue for at least a few more months.

Charles Evans, head of the Chicago Fed and an influential dove at the central bank, said rates could stay at rock bottom until the unemployment rate falls to 5.5 percent from the current 7.7 percent.

Retailer Best Buy Co Inc was the S&P's top percentage gainer, jumping 16.1 percent to $25.13 after saying it would offer a 30 percent discount on its current stock of Apple iPad 3 tablets in the United States.

Shares of Facebook rose 3.1 percent to $27.07 in heavy volume after it unveiled a new family of phone applications that will let users display mobile versions of their newsfeed and messages on the home screen of a wide range of devices.

Analysts said the move could divert users from services of Google. Its shares fell 1.4 percent to $795.07.

The jobless claims data was the latest bit of disappointing economic news. Jobless claims jumped to 385,000 in the latest week, confounding expectations that claims would drop by 7,000 to 350,000.

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