Investors awaiting Draghi conference after ECB keeps interest rates unchanged

The Associated Press

A man looks at an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014. Weakness in U.S. and Chinese manufacturing sent Asian stock markets sharply lower Tuesday. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

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By PAN PYLAS, AP Business Writer

LONDON (AP) — Markets were solid Thursday as investors awaited the latest comments from the European Central Bank's top official following its decision to keep interest rates unchanged.

Ahead of the verdict, a number of economists thought the central bank would trim its key interest rate from the record low of 0.25 percent to shore up the recovery in the 18-country eurozone and prevent prices from falling.

Though nothing was announced, Draghi could point to further easing measures in the months ahead.

"We expect strong hints from Mario Draghi in the press conference that more action is on the way very soon," said Jonathan Loynes, chief European economist at Capital Economics.

In Europe, Germany's DAX was up 1 percent at 9,211 while the CAC-40 in France rose 1.1 percent to 4,165. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 1 percent higher at 6,521.

Wall Street was poised for a solid opening with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.5 percent.

Earlier in Asia, the main focus was Australia where both the stock market and currency jumped after encouraging economic data. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 1.2 percent to 5,129.20 and the Australian dollar rose to its highest in more than three weeks after the government reported a surprise trade surplus in December. Economists had been expecting a deficit.

Elsewhere, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed 0.2 percent lower at 14,155.12 while South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.9 percent to 1,907.89 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 0.7 percent to 21,423.13.

Markets in China remained closed until Friday because of Lunar New Year holidays.

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