US STOCKS-Wall Street inches upward, new jobless claims weigh

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 04, 2013 19:20 hrs

* Jobless claims disappoint, following private sector report

* Best Buy rallies on plan to sell discounted iPads

* Dow up 0.3 pct; S&P up 0.3 pct; Nasdaq up 0.04 pct

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, April 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks edged higher on Thursday on supportive plans by major central banks, though another disappointing U.S. economic report added to worries about the economy's strength.

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. On Wednesday, a report showed U.S. companies hired at the slowest pace in five months in March.

Offsetting that, the Bank of Japan shocked markets with ambitious plans to fight deflation. Its move along with supportive remarks by European and Federal Reserve officials suggested supportive policies will continue to buoy stocks.

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.

"We see a lot of people expecting a pullback, and the fact that it hasn't happened means there's a lot of room for people to cover their losses," said Joe Bell, senior market analyst for Schaeffer's Investment Research in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Retailer Best Buy Co Inc was the S&P's top percentage gainer, rising 12.9 percent to $24.45 after saying it would offer a 30 percent discount on its current stock of Apple iPad 3 tablets in the United States.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 44.05 points, or 0.30 percent, at 14,594.40. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 4.66 points, or 0.30 percent, at 1,558.35. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.32 points, or 0.04 percent, at 3,219.92.

Data showed jobless claims jumped to 385,000 in the latest week, confounding expectations that claims would drop by 7,000 to 350,000.

Among the latest comments from Fed officials, Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, on Thursday suggested the Fed's program 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 on Thursday rates could stay at rock bottom until joblessness falls to 5.5 percent from the current 7.7 percent.

Japanese shares gained 2.2 percent while the iShares MSCI Japan Index ETF jumped 3.9 percent to $10.88. U.S. shares of Toyota Motor rose 4.5 percent to $105.40.

WisdomTree Japan ETF jumped 7.2 percent to $43.77.

Shares of Facebook jumped 3.2 percent to $27.10 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.

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