S&P 500 to test record high after BOJ ramps up stimulus

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The S&P 500 could set a record high at the open on Friday as markets rallied globally after the Bank of Japan significantly ramped up its stimulus program just days after the U.S. Federal Reserve wound down its own package of economic incentives.

If futures’ gains hold after the open, the S&P 500 could test its record high set more than a month ago. The December e-minis contract hit an intraday record earlier on Friday.

The BOJ’s board voted 5-4 to accelerate purchases of Japanese government bonds while tripling its purchases of exchange-traded funds and real-estate investment trusts.

At the same time, Japan’s $1.2 trillion Government Pension Investment Fund announced new allocations for its portfolio, including raising its holdings of domestic and foreign stock holdings to 25 percent each from 12 percent. A Nikkei newspaper report on this announcement on Thursday contributed to an afternoon move higher in U.S. stocks.

The timing of the moves sends a strong signal to investors, coming right as six years of aggressive U.S. stimulus come to an end and as euro zone inflation data kept the pressure on the European Central Bank to further ease monetary policy.

“Investors have been watching for a while to see if the rest of the world would start to grow and help multinationals in the U.S.; this is a great step towards that,” said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“It is a significant development and I think it encourages the Europeans to also look to take more assertive steps to revive their economies.”

S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 21 points and fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract, indicated a higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures <1YMc1> rose 171 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 61 points.

The U.S. dollar rallied as well, pressuring crude oil prices as well as spot gold , which dropped 2.8 percent, the most in more than a year.

Japan’s Nikkei <.N225> rose 4.8 percent, while S&P 500 e-mini futures rallied shortly before 1:00 a.m. New York time (1 a.m. EDT) in a sharp volume increase.

U.S. labor costs rose more than expected in the third quarter as wages recorded their largest gain since 2008, a sign that a long-awaited pick-up in wage growth was underway.

A Chicago survey of business activity and a measure of consumer sentiment are both due shortly after the opening bell on Wall Street.

Abbvie shares rose 4 percent after the drugmaker reported quarterly earnings.

GoPro shares jumped 15.3 percent the day after it forecast better-than-expected holiday quarter sales.

So far this earnings season has been strong, with 75.5 percent of S&P 500 components reporting earnings above analyst expectations according to Thomson Reuters data, above the 63 percent average in the past 20 years.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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S&P 500 to test record high after BOJ ramps up stimulus
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