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|Includes:HMC, SNE, Toyota Motor Corporation (TM)

By Carlos Guillen

Despite rather concerning initial claims data posted earlier today, equity markets are attempting to stay positive, making modest moves to the upside with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining just over 5 points so far into the first half of the trading session.

Quite discouraging today was that employment data showed a sharp rise in the number of people filing for unemployment checks. According to the Department of Labor, initial claims during the week ended March 30 totaled 385,000, increasing from the 357,000 revised figure reported for the prior week and landing above the Street's estimate of 345,000. The fact that the number remained above 350,000 for a second consecutive week was also discouraging.

The initial claims' four-week moving average was 354,250, increasing from the prior week's average of 343,000, also rising above 350,000 after three week of remaining under. We should note that the Department of Labor has been having some difficulty making proper adjustments to account for noise related to the Easter Holiday, but there still appears to be an unfavorable trend developing.

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In all, it is remarkable to see that the Dow is still holding above levels seen back in 2007, before the financial meltdown. Of course, this thought does bring mixed feelings and, therefore, some caution; as such, it is apparent that investors are on the verge of bailing out at the sight of any bit of unfavorable data, but at the same time they have been motivated by the strong recent gains. At the moment all eyes are looking to see the numbers the government will deliver tomorrow, so some pressure will likely develop toward the end of the session.

BoJ Banzai
By David Urani

One of the big stories of the day is over in Japan, where the new Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda is going pedal to the metal such that he makes Bernanke look like weak sauce. Of course, Kuroda is part of the new leadership in Japan headed by Prime Minister Abe who seems hell bent on jump-starting Japan and ending their ages of deflation once and for all no matter how much it takes. It could end up being a big disaster down the road but for now the markets are loving the super-spending mentality.

Everybody knew the Bank of Japan was about to go hog-wild but today's announcement even exceeds expectations. They will be adding $1.4 trillion of quantitative easing over the next two years which will effectively double the monetary base. The Bank of Japan also says it will dip into the equity markets, buying $323 million worth of REIT's and $10.5 billion in ETF's each year.

To put this all in comparison with our own Federal Reserve, the monthly QE amounts to 7.5 trillion which is approximate to the $80 billion the Fed is printing per month, but their economy is about a third the size of ours.

The Nikkei Index jumped 2.2% on the day, and some of the Japanese stocks traded here like Toyota (TM +4.2%), Honda (HMC +4.8%) and Sony (SNE +2.9%) are catching fire.

Nikkei - 1 yr(click to enlarge)Click to enlarge

Stocks: TM, HMC, SNE