REFILE-US STOCKS-Wall St boosted by supportive central bank policy

Thu Apr 4, 2013 11:37am EDT

* BOJ action and U.S. officials' remarks support market

* Jobless claims disappoint, following private sector report

* Best Buy rallies on plan to sell discounted iPads

* Indexes: Dow up 0.2 pct, S&P up 0.3 pct, Nasdaq off 0.1 pct

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, April 4 (Reuters) - Wall Street edged higher Thursday as robust action by the Bank of Japan and supportive remarks by U.S. officials indicated that equity markets would continue to be propped up, but gains were capped by data showing U.S. jobless claims unexpectedly rose.

The Bank of Japan shocked markets with a radical overhaul of its monetary policy, adopting a new balance sheet target and pledging to double its government bond holdings in two years.

Following the decision, Japanese shares soared 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.

Still, investors were disappointed by an unexpected jump in U.S. weekly jobless claims to a four-month high, the latest in a series of data points to disappoint, raising questions about growth and the labor market's recovery.

"I think the market is showing nervousness after the weak readings this week on the ISM manufacturing, ISM services, the ADP and now the jobless claims. There is a fear of this being the start of a 'spring swoon'," said Jack DeGan, chief investment officer of Harbor Advisory.

"I don't think that is the case, but until we get a couple of real inputs that the economy is improving, the rally is likely to stall considering how far we've come this year."

Wall Street has advanced more than 9 percent this year, partially fueled by a supportive environment from central banks around the world, a trend investors expect to continue.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 33.29 points, or 0.23 percent, at 14,583.64. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 4.68 points, or 0.30 percent, at 1,558.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 3.92 points, or 0.12 percent, at 3,214.68.

The benchmark S&P index is about 1.4 percent away from a record intraday peak of 1,576.09.

Market declines have been used as buying opportunities of late, but many investors are calling for a more pronounced pullback. Wednesday's decline was the biggest daily drop for the S&P since February.

First-quarter earnings growth forecasts have been lowered since the start of the year, with S&P 500 company earnings expected to have risen 1.6 percent from a year ago, according to Thomson Reuters data. A Jan. 1 forecast put earnings growth at 4.3 percent.

Data showed jobless claims jumped to 385,000 in the latest week, confounding expectations that claims would drop by 7,000 to 350,000. On Wednesday, a read on private sector employment also disappointed, spurring concerns about Friday's jobs report, which is expected to show that 200,000 jobs were added in March, down from the previous month.

"If Friday's report is better than expected, then the sentiment could turn back into positive territory, but if it is confirmation that things are softening, that could be the beginning of a pullback," said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York.

On Wednesday, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said the Fed had room to keep buying bonds to support the U.S. economic recovery. Earlier Thursday, Dennis Lockhart, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, suggested the Fed's program would continue for at least a few more months.

Retailer Best Buy Co Inc was the S&P's top percentage gainer, rising 10 percent to $23.80, after saying it would offer a 30 percent discount on its current stock of Apple iPad 3 tablets in the United States.

Private equity firms TPG Capital and Madison Dearborn Partners are the two finalists bidding for National Financial Partners, a New York-based wealth management company with a market value of nearly $900 million, people familiar with the matter said.

Shares of National rose 4 percent to $23.14.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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