Japan printing offsets weak US jobs figures

US STOCKS ended slightly higher yesterday after the Bank of Japan announced aggressive, market-lifting policies to jump-start its economy, but weak US jobs data capped gains.

BoJ’s surprisingly dramatic 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 four per cent to $10.89, while US-listed shares of Toyota climbed 4.7 per cent to $105.63 and WisdomTree Japan ETF jumped 7.5 per cent to $43.88.

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

The Fed’s stimulus efforts along with signs of improvement in the US 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 pulled back 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 programme, which has probably been reassuring for markets,” said Peter Jankovskis of OakBrook Investments.

A jump in US weekly jobless claims to a four-month high raised questions about the labour market’s recovery ahead of today’s official monthly jobs report. A report on Wednesday showed US companies hired at the slowest pace in five months in March.

The Dow Jones industrial average was up 55.76 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 14,606.11. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 6.29 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 1,559.98. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 6.38 points, or 0.2 per cent, at 3,224.98.