* 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 up: Dow 0.4 pct, S&P 0.4 pct, Nasdaq 0.1 pct
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, April 4 U.S. stocks rose on 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, though gains were checked by weak data on the
Jobless claims unexpectedly jumped last week, the latest in
a series of data points to disappoint, raising questions about
growth and the labor market's recovery.
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.
"I wouldn't have expected claims to be such a heavy wet
blanket, but in the short term, we've had a couple of
disappointments," said Mike Shea, managing partner and trader at
Direct Access Partners LLC in New York.
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.
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.
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.
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 52.30 points,
or 0.36 percent, at 14,602.65. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index
was up 5.89 points, or 0.38 percent, at 1,559.58. The
Nasdaq Composite Index was up 1.59 points, or 0.05
percent, at 3,220.20.
The benchmark S&P continues to struggle to reach a new
all-time intraday peak. The current record of 1,576.09 is about
1.4 percent away, though the index has climbed recently to
within 3 points of it.
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.
"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.
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
Best Buy Co Inc was the S&P's top percentage gainer,
rising 4.1 percent to $22.50, after the retailer said 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 2.7 percent to $22.85.