ECB's Draghi in focus in markets ahead of payrolls

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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 from a big retreat earlier in Asia as investors awaited comments from the European Central Bank president Mario Draghi.

The gains were muted in the wake of the ECB's widely expected decision to keep its main interest rate unchanged at the record low of 0.5 percent and ahead of another raft of U.S. economic data in the run-up to Friday's nonfarm payrolls report for May.

Though Draghi may say something at his regular monthly press conference about boosting lending to smaller firms in the ailing eurozone economy, few market participants were expecting anything dramatic.

"He is unlikely to promise the imminent and bold action that would be needed to make a meaningful difference to the economic outlook or to gain ground on more proactive central banks elsewhere," said Jennifer McKeown, senior European economist at Capital Economics.

Following the decision, the euro was trading in a fairly narrow range, up 0.2 percent at $1.3113. At previous meetings the euro has seen the bulk of trading activity during Draghi's press conference.

Among stock markets, Germany's DAX was up 0.4 percent at 8,233 while the CAC-40 in France rose 0.6 percent to 3,878. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.2 percent at 6,434 after the Bank of England left its monetary policy unchanged, as expected.

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 up 0.3 percent.

Once the ECB meeting is out of the way and a cursory glance is given to weekly U.S. jobless claims, the focus will be on Friday's U.S. payrolls data.

This week's economic news 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.

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.