BoJ to buy assets, S&P 500 sets new 5-year high

NEW YORK Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:31pm GMT

1 of 4. Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange following its reopening in New York October 31, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The yen rose against the dollar and euro on Tuesday after the Bank of Japan said its open-ended commitment to buy assets would kick in only next year, but the prospect of more monetary accommodation by a central bank appeared to lend support to a broad range of financial assets, including stocks, gold and oil.

Analysts said the yen's rise would likely be short-lived and that on a medium-term basis, it would weaken.

The euro benefited from a surprisingly sharp jump in investor sentiment in Germany. Analysts said, however, that the currency's recent climb could put the euro zone at a competitive disadvantage when its economy needs to grow.

Hopes that the global economy would improve allowed cyclical sectors to lead the Standard & Poor's 500 to a five-year high.

Investors waited for earnings results from technology companies due after the closing bell and were not disappointed.

IBM reported fourth-quarter earnings and revenue that beat analysts' forecasts and Google Inc said net revenue in its core Internet business increased more than 20 percent in the fourth quarter.

Shares of Google were up roughly 4.5 percent at $734.46 in after-hours trading.

"Especially with the lull in economic data this week, earnings will be a big driving force for equities this week," said Jonathan Garber, macro analyst at Briefing.com in Chicago.

A catalyst from positive earnings results is needed for stocks to move still higher, he said, while mixed earnings with "lower guidance" would make another upward move more difficult.

Signals that Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives would pass a nearly four-month extension of the U.S. debt limit were also helpful for riskier assets.

Global stock markets were mixed. Japanese equities and world indices rose on the BoJ news, but European shares fell on a potential price war in French telecommunications.

The euro pared sharp losses against the yen and the dollar after a German ZEW survey showed economic sentiment at its highest since May 2012.

Front-month Brent crude oil futures rose 71 cents to settle at $112.42 a barrel, supported by Bank of Japan plans for asset buying and strong investor confidence data from Germany.

Gold rose as the Bank of Japan's pledge to launch an economic stimulus effort and a five-year high in U.S. equities prompted nervous investors to buy gold. Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,691.24 an ounce by 3:29 p.m. EST (8.29 p.m. British Time).

Japan's central bank, under intense political pressure to overcome deflation, doubled its inflation target to 2 percent. The BoJ also said it had decided to switch to an open-ended approach to buying assets each month next year, setting no deadline for completing the purchases.

"The yen strengthened after weakening since mid-November in anticipation of the BoJ's plan," Garber said.

Though the yen appreciated on Tuesday, Omer Esiner, chief market analyst at Commonwealth Foreign Exchange in Washington, said its medium-term trend downward was intact.

Current BoJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa's term ends in April and since he is expected to be replaced by someone whose stance on aggressive policy easing matches that of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, markets expect the yen to weaken.

On Tuesday, however, the dollar slipped against the yen to 88.68.

The euro was down 1.3 percent on the day at 117.78 yen, though off a session low of 117.31 yen. The euro was hurt by a German newspaper report saying Germany's regulator had ordered large banks to simulate a break-up.

Against the dollar, the euro was down 0.1 percent at $1.3300.

The euro hit a near 10-month high a week ago and some strategists said it would likely stay firm as concerns around the euro zone crisis ease. Supporting that view was a surprisingly strong German ZEW reading on investor sentiment, a sign the euro zone crisis was no longer hitting Europe's largest economy as hard as it did last year.

But Douglas Cote, chief market strategist at ING U.S. Investment Management, with $170 billion in assets under management, said the euro's rise since the start of the year could pose a problem for the euro zone and the global economy.

"Europe has a growth crisis," he said. "Their currency is rising at the absolute worst possible time, hurting its global competitiveness."

U.S. housing data has surprised on the positive side over the last few months, but news that U.S. existing home sales fell in December temporarily weakened stock prices. It also allowed safe-haven U.S. debt to erase early losses and edge higher.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 1/32, leaving its yield at 1.84 percent, slightly lower than 1.85 percent at the close on Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 62.51 points, or 0.46 percent, at 13,712.21. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 6.58 points, or 0.44 percent, at 1,492.56. The Nasdaq Composite Index was up 8.47 points, or 0.27 percent, at 3,143.18.

European shares, testing two-year highs in recent days, weakened. Telecom shares slipped after Vivendi's SFR mobile operator said it was cutting prices by as much as 25 percent.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed down 0.1 percent at 1,165.49.

Frankfurt's DAX fell as much as 1.4 percent on the talk but then erased about half of that loss.

The MSCI world index was up 0.26 percent.

(Additional reporting by Wanfeng Zhou, Nick Olivari, Margaret Choi and Frank Tang in New York; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Dan Grebler)

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