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Markets remain buoyed by Dow's new record

Pan Pylas, AP Business Writer

People walk past an electronic board showing the Nikkei 225 index, outside a securities company in Tokyo, Thursday, March 7, 2013. World stock markets were mostly higher Thursday following Wall Street's eye-popping performance this week. Japan's Nikkei 225 index had its highest close in four years. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

LONDON (AP) -- Markets steadied Thursday as three of the world's top central banks opted against loosening monetary policy further.

The decisions by the Bank of Japan, the European Central Bank and the Bank of England to not ease policy at their latest meetings had been mostly anticipated, but it encouraged investors to pause for breath in a week that's seen the Dow Jones industrial average close at all-time highs on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Dow's march higher has encouraged optimism across global markets and sent many stock indexes to multi-year highs, too. As a result, it was unsurprising that the mood should settle down, especially ahead of Friday's closely-watched U.S. monthly payrolls figures, which often set the market tone for a week or two after their release.

"Many will now presumably be inclined to sit on the sidelines ahead of tomorrow's non-farm payrolls release," said Fawad Razaqzada, market strategist at GFT Markets.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.1 percent at 6,435 while Germany's DAX was steady at 7,923. The CAC-40 in France was 0.2 percent higher at 3,782.

Wall Street was poised for a steady opening, with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent.

Most attention in the markets is now on Friday's payrolls figures for February. A better than expected report from private payrolls firm ADP on Wednesday lifted expectations over the official government data.

The dollar has been buoyed over the past couple of weeks by rising hopes over the U.S. economy, particularly compared with its major peers, such as the eurozone and Japan.

However, the dollar shed some recent gains against the euro on Thursday. The euro was up 0.3 percent at $1.3019.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index had its highest close in four years, rising 0.3 percent to 11,968.08. Earlier in the session, it broke through the 12,000 mark as the Bank of Japan wrapped up a two-day meeting without announcing new monetary policy measures. The meeting was the last to be headed by Masaaki Shirakawa, who steps down March 19.

The incoming chief, Haruhiko Kuroda, is expected to ease monetary policy to support the policies of new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A former vice minister of finance, Kuroda has long voiced his support for bolder central bank policies and for a weaker currency to help boost export manufacturers by making their products cheaper in overseas markets.

The yen remained in retreat, with the dollar 0.4 percent higher at 94.39 yen.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped marginally to 22,771.44 while South Korea's Kospi shed 0.8 percent to 2,004.40. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1 percent to 2,324.29, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 1.1 percent to 968.34.

In the oil markets, the price of benchmark New York crude was 37 cents higher at $90.80 a barrel.