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Markets await ECB verdict in run-up to payrolls

Pan Pylas, AP Business Writer

A man walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Asian stock markets fell Wednesday as signs the U.S. Federal Reserve might scale back its super-loose monetary policy caused investors to trim equity investments. Japan's Nikkei 225 index tumbled 1.8 percent to 13,295.89, registering disappointment with a lack of detail in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's unveiling of the third plank of his so-called Abenomics program intended to rouse a long-stagnant economy. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

LONDON (AP) -- Stock markets in Europe recovered their poise Thursday despite a big retreat earlier in Asia earlier and a glitch that temporarily affected several major exchanges.

The gains were muted ahead of the European Central Bank's monthly policy decision and another raft of U.S. economic data in the run-up to Friday's nonfarm payrolls report for May, which often sets the market tone for a week or two after its release.

On Wednesday, stocks in the U.S. and Europe fell sharply as concerns over the state of the U.S. economy trumped any expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve might continue its monetary stimulus program. That sell-off fed through into Asia's session on Thursday.

"Stocks took something of a beating yesterday and so far there's no sign of a quick rebound," said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at Interactive Investor. "That said, traders may be tempted to sit on their hands in the short term with the non-farm payrolls due for release tomorrow."

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.1 percent at 6,426, while Germany's DAX rose 0.2 percent to 8,211. The CAC-40 was trading 0.4 percent higher at 3,866.

Trading on a number of European exchanges started about an hour late Thursday after a problem with NYSE Euronext's systems prevented customers from placing orders. Exchanges in Paris, Lisbon, Brussels and Amsterdam were affected by the unexplained glitch.

Wall Street was poised for a solid opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P futures down 0.3 percent.

The focus over the rest of the day will hinge on the monthly policy decision from the ECB and the ensuing press briefing from the central bank's president, Mario Draghi. The ECB is not expected to announce any major new measures to boost the ailing economy of the 17-country Eurozone, but investors will monitor Draghi's comments for hints of future policies.

The euro was solid in the run-up to the ECB decision, trading 0.2 percent higher at $1.3121. The dollar was 0.1 percent higher at 99.14 yen.

Once the ECB meeting is out of the way, the focus will turn to Friday's U.S. payrolls data. This week's economic newsflow out of the U.S. has been disappointing and investors now think it's less likely that the Fed will decide to reduce the amount of financial assets it has been buying in the markets in the hope of stimulating the U.S. economy.

Fed chief Ben Bernanke has said the U.S. central bank might pull back on its $85 billion a month bond-buying program as economic data improves. But other Fed officials have spoken about a winding down of asset purchases sooner. The uncertainty over a possible tapering of the stimulus has been a cause for concern for many stock investors over the past couple of weeks.

The purchases have been one of the main drivers in financial markets in recent years and have contributed to the rise in many global indexes to record highs.

Later in the day, the market focus will be on U.S. weekly jobless claims.

In Asia, markets responded to the weakness experienced the previous day in Europe and the U.S.

The Nikkei closed down 0.9 percent at 12,904.02. That's on top of Wednesday's 3.8 percent fall. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.1 percent to 21,838.43, while Shanghai's main index dropped 1.3 percent to 2,346.80. Markets in South Korea were closed for a public holiday.

In oil markets, the benchmark contract for July delivery was up 55 cents to $94.29 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 43 cents on Wednesday.