TOKYO (AP) — The dollar soared above 100 yen for the first time in more than four years Friday, driven by improved U.S. economic figures and Tokyo's aggressive credit-easing that aims to revive Japan's sluggish economy.
The U.S. dollar rose as high as 101.18 yen, the first time since April 2009 that the greenback has traded above 100 yen. The move lifted Japanese stocks to their highest level in more than five years.
The weaker yen is a boon to Japan's major auto and electronics exporters. The government said the yen's fall signaled that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy mix of increased public spending and aggressive monetary easing, dubbed "Abenomics," was proving successful. Kick-starting the economy has been Abe's top priority since he took office late last year.
"With Abenomics, we hope that the Japanese economy will grow and can contribute to the global economy," said Yoshihide Suga, the chief Cabinet spokesman. "It's better that stocks are high than low. We believe this is a sign that our policies are progressing well."
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was up 3.1 percent in afternoon trading at 14,629.80, the highest since January 2008.
Japan's monetary easing, and expectations it will help reverse persistent deflation, have helped drive the value of the yen down by more than 20 percent against the dollar since October, when it was trading at around 78 yen.
The yen's sustained fall has riled some of Japan's trading partners but generally won support from leaders of other big economies eager to see the world's third-biggest economy recover from two decades of stagnation. Abe has pushed both fiscal and monetary stimulus strategies to help Japan end a long bout of deflation and support domestic demand.
Japanese officials have fought accusations that Tokyo may be manipulating its currency to give its exporters a boost, and so far international financial institutions generally have backed Abe's approach.
"The accommodative plan of the Bank of Japan is quite ambitious," Naoyuki Shinohara, deputy director of the International Monetary Fund, told reporters in Tokyo. "The easy monetary policy will cause the currency to depreciate. That is axiomatic," he said.
Optimism about the U.S. economy also lifted the dollar after several positive indicators were released. The Labor Department said Thursday that unemployment claims fell to the lowest level in more than five years. And last week, figures showed that the U.S. economy had added 165,000 jobs in April, lowering the unemployment rate fell to 7.5 percent.
"Worries began to grow that U.S. economy wasn't doing so well, but in May the figures improved. So with concerns about the U.S. easing, the dollar is rising," said Takuya Kanda, a currency analyst at Gaitame.com Research Institute in Tokyo.
"If U.S. economy improves, and the Bank of Japan's aggressive easing continues ... that will lead to further dollar strength and yen weakness," said Kanda, who predicts the dollar will rise to 110 yen this year.
A weaker yen helps Japan's key exporters by boosting overseas earnings when repatriated and by making goods produced within Japan for export more affordable in markets abroad. However, it raises costs in yen terms of the imported crude oil and natural gas that resource-scarce Japan must rely on to keep its industries humming and power its cities.
The central bank, under its new governor Haruhiko Kuroda, has vowed to double the monetary base through purchases of government bonds to meet a 2 percent inflation target within the next two years.
By joining the U.S. Federal Reserve and other major central banks in flooding the economy with cash, the Bank of Japan hopes to get corporations and consumers to begin spending more and end a long malaise.
But Abenomics faces risks, too, including the impact of increased public spending on Japan's already enormous national debt and whether higher inflation will also push up interest rates, raising borrowing costs.
"I think Abenomics is being evaluated well so far," Kanda said. "But people will be watching closely how his policies will unfold and impact the broader economy."
Shinohara, the IMF official, said he believed Japan's financial markets would adjust after a period of volatility brought on by its massive monetary easing, but he expressed concern over the country's burgeoning public debt, which is more than twice the size of its economy and double the average for other industrial economies.
"The IMF's mission is to watch for risk factors, and the fiscal stimulus is of concern because it must be accompanied by a credible plan for fiscal consolidation."
On her first night at home in a decade, relatives of freed kidnapping victim Gina DeJesus huddled around her, sleeping on inflatable mattresses in their living room so the young woman would not have to sleep in an upstairs bedroom similar to the one where she spent much of her captivity, her mother told ABC News in an exclusive interview with David Muir.
DeJesus, 23, was reunited with her family Wednesday after nearly 10 years spent as the alleged prisoner of Ariel Castro, a man her mother knew for years.
For years after DeJesus' abduction, Castro, who grew up in the same community as the young woman's mother, Nancy Ruiz, would offer the family his support.
As recently as last year, Castro, 52, asked Ruiz, "How are you doing?" never indicating he was allegedly keeping her daughter a captive in his Cleveland home just miles from where she lived.
Ruiz said DeJesus told her that she and two other women, Amanda Berry, 27, and Michelle Knight, 30, were kept chained in the basement of the basement. Later on, they were allowed upstairs and kept in two separate bedrooms for much of the time.
DeJesus and Knight were often kept in one bedroom. Berry and her daughter, 6, whom she gave birth to while in captivity, were held in a second room, Ruiz said.
The young women were warned there was an alarm system and that it would go off if they tried to escape, Ruiz added.
The women were freed on Monday, when Berry screamed for help from behind a locked door, alerting neighbors who helped kick down the door and called police.
Ruiz said Castro would take Berry's daughters on outings to the park and to church, though the women were never permitted to leave the property themselves.
Berry's litte girl was never told the real names of the other women in the house because of fears she might reveal those names in public and get Castro in trouble, Ruiz said.
Castro would bring the women food, which they would cook. Sometimes he would bring them McDonald's food.
He bought the young women clothes from a local store, Ruiz said, and DeJesus would use the fabric from the clothes to make new outfits, once changing a skirt into a pair of capri pants.
Castro was arraigned today in an Ohio court on charges of kidnapping and rape. Bond was set at $8 million. He did not enter a plea.
The 52-year-old former school bus driver accused of kidnapping and raping the women will make his first public appearance in court Thursday after emerging as the lone suspect.
While many questions remain about how Ariel Castro maintained such tight control over the women for so many years before one of them made a daring escape Monday, the horrors they suffered are beginning to come to light.
Police say the women were apparently bound by ropes and chains at times and were kept in different rooms. They suffered prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and had miscarriages, according to a city official briefed on the case.
Castro has been charged with four counts of kidnapping — covering the captives and the daughter born to one of them — and three counts of rape, against all three women.
The women and Castro have given lengthy statements to police that have helped build their case, said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba.
None of the women, though, gave them any indication that Castro's two older brothers, who've been in custody since Monday, were involved, Tomba said. Prosecutors brought no charges against the brothers, citing a lack of evidence.
"Ariel kept everyone at a distance," Tomba said.
One thing that remains a mystery, he said, is how the women were kept in the house so long.
"As far as the circumstances inside the home and the control he may have had over those girls ... I think that's going to take us a long time to figure that out," he said.
The women, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished separately between 2002 and 2004. At the time, they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
At a news conference, authorities would not discuss the circumstances of their kidnapping and captivity.
City Councilman Brian Cummins earlier said: "We know that the victims have confirmed miscarriages, but with who, how many and what conditions we don't know."
"It sounds pretty gruesome," he added.
They never saw a chance to escape over the last 10 years until this week when Amanda Berry broke through a door and ran to freedom, alerting police who rescued the other two women while Castro was away from the house.
In newly released police audio tapes, a 911 dispatcher notifies officers on Monday that she's just spoken to a woman who "says her name is Amanda Berry and that she had been kidnapped 10 years ago."
An officer on the recorded call says, "This might be for real."
After police arrive at the house, women can be heard crying in the background. Then an officer tells the dispatcher: "We found 'em. We found 'em."
Tomba said of Berry, "Something must have clicked and she saw an opportunity and she took that opportunity."
He said the women could remember being outside only twice during their entire time in captivity. "We were told they left the house and went into the garage in disguise," he said.
Also in the house was Berry's 6-year-old daughter. A paternity test on Castro was being done to establish whether he fathered the child.
While prosecutors announced charges against Castro, federal agents searched a vacant house near where the women had been held. Officials would only say their search was an attempt to get evidence in the case against Castro, but they refused to say what they found or what led them there.
Castro was in custody and couldn't be reached for comment. A brother-in-law has said the family was shocked after hearing about the women at the home.
Few people in Cleveland, outside the families of the women, thought there was any chance they were still alive.
Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, who is in her early 20s, were welcomed home Wednesday by jubilant crowds of loved ones and neighbors with balloons and banners. Family members hustled them inside, past hundreds of reporters and onlookers.
Neither woman spoke.
"This is the best Mother's Day I could ever have," said Nancy Ruiz, Gina's mother. She said she hugged her daughter and didn't want to let go.
Ruiz said she spent time with all three women after they were rescued. "There's no word to describe the beauty of just seeing them," she said.
DeJesus' father pumped his fist after arriving home with his daughter, and urged people across the country to watch over the children in their neighborhoods — including other people's kids.
"Too many kids these days come up missing, and we always ask this question: How come I didn't see what happened to that kid? Why? Because we chose not to," he said.
The third captive, Michelle Knight, 32, was reported in good condition at Metro Health Medical Center, which a day earlier had reported that all three victims had been released. There was no immediate explanation from the hospital.
The Associated Press does not usually identify people who may be victims of sexual assault, but the names of the women were widely circulated by their families, friends and law enforcement authorities for years during their disappearance.
Castro was accused of twice breaking the nose of his children's mother, knocking out a tooth, dislocating each shoulder and threatening to kill her and her daughters, according to a 2005 domestic-violence filing in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court.
The filing for a protective order by Grimilda Figueroa also said that Castro frequently abducted her daughters and kept them from her. Figueroa died in April 2012 after a battle with cancer.
Figueroa's father, Ismail Figueroa, said Wednesday that Castro would regularly lock his daughter inside a second-floor apartment in the house where they lived when they were first together.
Later, when they moved a few blocks to the house Castro purchased — the house from which, years later, the women would escape — he kept a close eye on her and refused to let people come inside to visit her or even let her pick up their children from school, said Angel Villanueva, who is married to Grimilda Figueroa's sister.
Grimilda was "not allowed to go nowhere," said Villanueva. No matter where she wanted to go, "it had to be with him."
___ Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Mike Householder and freelance reporter John Coyne in Cleveland; Mitch Stacy in Columbus; Dan Sewell in Cincinnati; John Seewer in Toledo; and news researchers Rhonda Shafner and Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.