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April 4, 2013 at 6:58 PM   |   Comments

Markets close higher with late push

NEW YORK, April 4 (UPI) -- U.S. stock indexes closed solidly in the black Thursday.

Stocks started the session higher, lost ground in the middle of the day, then rallied late.

Investors took a cue from Japan, where the Nikkei 225 index rose on a Bank of Japan policy shift.

The Bank of Japan initiated what it called a "Quantitative and Qualitative Monetary Easing," which included doubling its holdings of Japanese bonds within two years.

The BOJ said it would discontinue its current asset purchasing and incorporate that program into the new one, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index closed at 12,634.54, adding 272.34 points, or 2.2 percent.

But domestic data was discouraging.

The Labor Department said there were 28,000 additional first-time jobless benefits claims filed in the current week, bringing the weekly tally to 385,000.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed with a gain of 55.76 points, 0.38 percent, to 14,606.11. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 6.29 points of 0.4 percent, to 1,559.98. The Nasdaq composite index of tech-dominated stocks climbed 0.2 percent on a gain of 6.38 points to 3,224.98.

On the New York Stock Exchange, 1,872 stocks advanced and 1,135 declined on a volume of 3.3 billion shares traded.

The 10-year U.S. treasury note rose 14/32 to yield 1.766 percent.

Against the dollar, the euro was $1.2932 from Wednesday's $1.2849. Against the yen, the dollar rose to 96.34 yen from Wednesday's 93.05 yen.

In London, the FTSE 100 index dropped 1.19 percent, losing 76.16 points to 6,344.12.


BofA pegged as a lawsuit risk

NEW YORK, April 4 (UPI) -- Banking analysts said U.S. financial giant Bank of America remains at risk for lawsuits, as a federal judge is poised to consider a $2.4 billion settlement.

Federal Judge Kevin Castel, of the Southern District of New York, will review a deal that would put to rest claims about Bank of America's alleged lack of honest communication with shareholders just before they voted on the $50 billion purchase of Merrill Lynch in December 2008.

Shareholders claimed they were misled or kept in the dark about Merrill Lynch's financial difficulties when they approved the purchase. Bank of America Corp. agreed to a $2.4 billion settlement in September but admitted to no wrongdoing, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported Thursday.

A judge still has to approve the deal for the bank that was also the target of multiple lawsuits concerned with its 2008 purchase of mortgage lender Countrywide Financial, just before the housing market imploded.

In spite of the billions the bank has spent on legal fees since the financial crisis knocked the banking industry for a loop in 2008, "Litigation appears to have only accelerated over the last 12 months as private investors, correspondents and various government agencies continue to pursue legal claims against the largest banks," wrote industry analysts at Sterne Agee & Leach.

"In particular, we remain concerned with BAC's potential litigation and outstanding mortgage repurchase risk," the analysts wrote.

The deadline to join the current class action suit is April 25, the Observer said.

Shareholders are eligible to join if they owned Bank of American common shares on Oct. 10, 2008 or if they purchased common shares from Sept. 18 2008 through Jan. 21, 2009, the newspaper said.

A few others are also eligible.


Bank of Japan takes bold step

TOKYO, April 4 (UPI) -- The Bank of Japan's new governor announced a quantitative easing program he said was taking the concept to a new level to try to end deflation.

"This is monetary easing in an entirely new dimension," Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda said of the program the bank announced Thursday, which includes doubling the bank's holdings of government bonds by 2015 in an attempt to push inflation to a 2 percent rate "at the earliest possible time."

The move will essentially double the amount of yen in circulation. With that much money available, demand for consumer goods is expected to rise.

The move will also devalue the yen, which will make it more expensive for Japanese consumers to buy imported goods.

Simultaneously, it will make exports cheaper in other countries, giving Japan's export-oriented economy a boost.

Other countries tend to accept quantitative easing programs better if they are viewed as primarily a tool to help the domestic economy, rather than as a way to give their exports businesses a discount.

In Japan's case, putting more money into circulation is intended to turn around years of falling prices, a situation known as deflation.

With deflation, consumers do not line up in front of stores because prices are low. They stay at home and do not shop, because if they wait longer, prices may go even lower.

An entire population hesitating to make purchases does not help an economy to grow.

Many were wondering how bold a step the new BOJ governor would take.

"Incremental steps of the kind we've seen so far weren't going to get us out of deflation. I'm certain we have now adapted all policies we can think of to meet the 2 percent price target," Kuroda said.


ECB leaves monetary policy intact

FRANKFURT, Germany, April 4 (UPI) -- The European Central Bank Thursday left its monetary policy unchanged citing slow inflation and a boost for long-term consumer demand.

"Price developments over the medium term should remain contained," said ECB President Mario Draghi at a news conference in Frankfurt, Germany.

Draghi also said that "weak economic activity has extended into the early part of the year and a gradual recovery is projected for the second half of this year, subject to downside risks.

The economy's performance in the fourth quartet was due to weak domestic demand and slowing exports, he said.

Over time, "export growth should benefit from a recovery in global demand and our monetary policy stance should contribute to support domestic demand," he said.

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