GLOBAL MARKETS-Stocks gain on China data; yen down on BOJ plan
* Stock markets around world rise on Chinese data
* S&P 500 and Dow industrials climb to records
* Japan's Nikkei climbs to 5-year high on BOJ stimulus plan and China
* Yen near multi-year lows vs major currencies, euro climbs
NEW YORK, April 10 (Reuters) - Chinese import data pushed stock markets around the world higher on Wednesday with the S&P 500 rising to a record, while Japan's economic stimulus package continued to weigh on the yen, sending it to multi-year lows against the dollar and euro.
U.S. stocks rallied across benchmark indexes, with the Dow Jones industrial average also reaching a record. Sentiment was eroded early by the Federal Reserve's unexpected decision to release the minutes of its last policy-setting meeting earlier than scheduled but that was quickly ignored by most investors.
Instead it was economic data from China that set the mostly positive tone throughout the global trading day. Imports of key commodities rebounded in March, signaling rising domestic demand to drive the world's second-largest economy.
The data boosted mining and basic resources stocks and supported industrial commodities, including oil and aluminum.
"This is two pieces of Chinese economic data in a row that have proven positive," said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York. Data on Tuesday showed annual consumer inflation in China cooled last month.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 91.52 points, or 0.62 percent, at 14,764.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 11.96 points, or 0.76 percent, at 1,580.57. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 39.63 points, or 1.22 percent, at 3,277.49.
Financial shares helped lead the advance, with the S&P financial sector index gaining 1.2 percent, while the S&P information technology sector index gained 1.8 percent.
The unexpected release of the Fed policy minutes briefly rattled investors. But after digesting the report, they viewed the minutes as of lesser importance than the Chinese data.
Indeed, since the minutes indicated stimulus remains in place for now, they may even have helped U.S. stocks in the short term.
A few U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers expected to taper the pace of asset purchases by mid-year and end them later this year, while several others expected to slow the pace a bit later and halt the quantitative easing program by year-end, according to the minutes of the Fed's March meeting.
The MSCI all-world share index,, which tracks stocks in 45 countries, rose 1.2 percent to its highest level since March 18. At the peak, the percentage gain on the index was the second best of 2013.
Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index was up 1.8 percent. EU]
European markets were bolstered by growing hopes of an interest rate cut by the European Central Bank and by signs of progress in dealing with the region's debt crisis after international lenders said Ireland and Portugal should get more time to repay their bailout loans.
In the currency markets, the yen hit a more than three-year low against the euro and edged closer to 100 to the dollar as it extended a slide triggered by the Bank of Japan's massive monetary easing plan unveiled last Thursday.
But the same stimulus measure was a boon for Japanese stocks. Japan's Nikkei index ended 0.7 percent higher at its highest close since August 2008.
The euro is being supported by speculation that Japanese investors, looking for higher returns as the BOJ action depresses domestic yields, may turn to euro zone bonds.
The dollar was bid as the Fed minutes were seen as maintaining the bias to end measures to stoke economic growth.
"Once again, the minutes have sounded a slightly more hawkish tone and that's really what's benefiting dollar/yen," said Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington.
The euro was up 0.7 percent against the yen at 130.18 yen , while the dollar was up 0.7 percent against the yen at 99.72 yen. It touched a four-year low against the dollar.
The prospect of huge purchases of Japanese government bonds by the BOJ is seen as likely to send investors on a hunt for higher returns in assets denominated in currencies other than the rapidly weakening yen.
Japanese government bond futures fell sharply on Wednesday, prompting the Tokyo Stock Exchange to halt trading briefly while the 10-year cash bond yield rose to a four-week high.
However, highly rated euro zone bond yields, which have fallen on the hopes of Japanese demand, recovered from their recent lows.
U.S. Treasury note yields were last at 1.785 percent.
In the oil market, signs of growing oil stocks weighed on crude prices, leaving Brent futures down 0.4 percent at $105.76 per barrel. U.S. crude was little changed at $94.23 a barrel.