Stocks edged higher today, as the market received a boost from a Japanese stimulus package, though investors received another jobs-related scare as initial unemployment claims soared. Trading was choppy, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) finished up 56 points, or 0.4%.
Earlier, the Bank of Japan announced a whopping stimulus plan to inject $1.4 trillion into its struggling economy over the next two years. The move would nearly double Japan's monetary base as officials search for an end to two decades of low or no growth. The Nikkei index jumped 2.2%, while the yen fell more than 3% against the dollar, after the unprecedented decision.
Following yesterday's foreboding employment report from ADP, initial jobless claims for last week came in much higher than expected, hitting a four-month high. The new jobless rolls climbed to 385,000, up from 357,000 the week before, and way ahead of estimates of just 340,000. Previously, the four-week moving average of new jobless claims had a hit a five-year low. Continuing employment claims, however, still remain relatively calm.
On the Dow today, Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) was the best performer, up 1.8%, as Chairman Ray Lane announced he would be stepping down, though he would remain on as a director. Lane was nearly ousted by shareholders earlier when he received less than 60% of their vote along with two other directors at HP's annual meeting last month, as investors seemed to blame him for the Autonomy debacle. Director Ralph Whitworth will take over as the Interim Chair. Two other HP directors also said they were resigning.
AT&T (NYSE: T ) was another winner today, as Facebook (NASDAQ: FB ) and HTC rolled out a $99 phone that comes pre-loaded with a Facebook home page. AT&T will be the exclusive carrier of the new phone, HTC First. Home is essentially a new Android platform for Facebook, as the new technology will allow users to see Facebook photos and messages on the phone's home page. Facebook shares were up 3.1% on the news.
Also making news with a similar partnership of its own was Best Buy (NYSE: BBY ) , whose shares were up 16% after the retailer said it struck a deal to install 1,400 Samsung kiosks in its stores. Investors seem to think the move could give Best Buy an edge over online competition, which it will need to stem falling sales. Still, Samsung's Galaxy lineup may now be the most appealing of all Smartphones, and the Korean electronics-maker is certainly a strong brand for Best Buy to hitch its fortunes to.
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