Japan's Nikkei outperforms on stimulus package

Japanese stocks outperform for 2nd day running in run-up to US payrolls figures

Associated Press
Japan's Nikkei outperforms on stimulus package
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A man looks at the latest Nikkei stock index on display in an electric signboard of a securities firm in Tokyo Thursday, April 4, 2013. Weak economic reports on hiring and service industry growth in the U.S. sent Asian stock markets lower Thursday. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

LONDON (AP) -- Japanese stocks outperformed all others for the second day running Thursday after the country's central bank announced a bold new approach to fixing the economy.

Elsewhere, stocks failed to match the performance of the Nikkei amid some nervousness ahead of Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls figures for March, which often set the market tone for a week or two after their release.

The euro was volatile after the European Central Bank's president, Mario Draghi, said the bank was looking at doing more to shore up the economy of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro.

However, the main talking point in the markets remained the Bank of Japan's announcement to massively expand the money supply to stoke inflation and get the economy out of its two-decade stagnation.

At the end of a two-day meeting, the Japanese central bank, under new Governor Haruhiko Kuroda, said it would double the money supply through the purchase of government bonds and other measures. Kuroda has vowed to do whatever necessary to get Japan out of its deflationary slump — falling prices have crippled growth in the world's No. 3 economy for the past two decades.

"Despite speculation earlier in the week over the possibility that not all of the BoJ policy committee were on board with the ultra-accommodative plans of new Governor Kuroda, the latter has still managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat and surprise the markets," said Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank International.

The announcement turned around Japan's main Nikkei 225 stock index, which at one stage was trading over 2 percent lower, as well as piling the pressure on the yen, as investors priced in the prospect of more money floating around the Japanese economy.

The Nikkei ended 2.2 percent higher to close at 12,634.54 while the dollar was trading 3.4 percent higher against the Japanese yen, at 96.11 yen.

The developments in Japan did little to support markets elsewhere, however.

In Europe, Germany's DAX fell 0.73 percent to 7,817 while the CAC-40 in France was 0.77 percent lower at 3,726. Trading was little affected by the news that the ECB was keeping its main interest rate unchanged at the record low of 0.75 percent.

What did attract investors' interest, at least for a while in the currency markets, was an ensuing statement from Draghi that the rate-setters were "closely" monitoring economic developments and their impact on inflation.

"Draghi ... appears to be paving the way for resumption of lower interest rates," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co.

That view caused the euro to fall sharply in the immediate aftermath of Draghi's remarks to a low of $1.2755. But it soon recovered as investors positioned themselves for Fridays' figures and it was trading 0.71 percent higher on the day at $1.2939.

Elsewhere in Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.74 percent to 6,372 as some traders were disappointed that the Bank of England didn't opt to pump more money into the economy.

Wall Street was relatively solid following a disappointing session on Wednesday, when traders were spooked by some soft U.S. economic figures. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 0.2 percent at 14,583 as was the S&P 500 index at 1,557.

Weak U.S. weekly jobless claims figures raised the prospect that the monthly jobs figures on Friday may disappoint expectations, but investors appeared to take them in stride, particularly in the U.S.

Earlier, the advance in Tokyo's stock market didn't ripple around Asia. South Korea's Kospi dropped 1.2 percent to 1,959.45 as bellicose rhetoric between North Korea and the U.S. rattled the local market. Early Thursday, North Korea warned that its military has been cleared to attack the U.S. though experts say the North has not demonstrated that it has missiles capable of long range or accuracy. Washington said it was working to defuse the situation.

Hong Kong and mainland Chinese markets were closed for a public holiday.

Oil prices tracked equities lower, with the benchmark New York rate down $1.95 at $92.50 a barrel.

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