ADVERTISEMENT

LONDON (AP) Markets steadied Thursday as investors digested the latest dovish remarks from the European Central Bank's top official and prepared for key U.S. jobs data.

Though the ECB kept its interest rates unchanged, President Mario Draghi said in his ensuing press conference that further easing measures are possible in the months ahead as inflation remains low and growth weak. He also said the ECB expects its main interest rates "to remain at present or lower levels for an extended period of time."

Draghi said the bank is ready to take "further decisive action" and use "all available tools" to spur the weak recovery. However, he said it was pointless to speculate what specific measures the bank might take. He would say only that the bank could use any tool permitted under the European Union treaty that created the bank and the shared euro currency.

"Overall, the ECB seems to be focusing on the two weak spots in the eurozone economy lending, especially to small and medium-sized businesses, and inflation," said Kathleen Brooks, research director at Forex.com. "If lending or inflation falls further then we could see the ECB pounce."

In Europe, Germany's DAX was steady at 9,497 while the CAC-40 in France fell 0.2 percent to 4,255. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was 0.2 percent lower at 6,711 after the Bank of England also kept policy on hold.

The euro took a brief bit of a hit following Draghi's remarks as traders priced in the possibility of more easing measures by the ECB in the future. However, it has since recovered to trade 0.1 percent higher at $1.3593.

In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average was down 0.1 percent at 16,447 while the broader S&P 500 index rose 0.1 percent to 1,834.

Now that the ECB monthly meeting is out of the way, investors can fully focus on Friday's U.S. nonfarm payrolls report, which can set the market tone for a week or two after its release.

The figures will be viewed in the context of how fast the U.S. Federal Reserve will reduce its monetary stimulus. Following a run of encouraging economic indicators, many economists now think the Fed will be more aggressive in its stimulus-reduction program than previously thought.

At its last policy meeting in December, the Fed took its first step to exit its current stimulus by deciding to trim its purchases by $10 billion to $75 billion this month. The money created by the stimulus has helped increase liquidity through the global financial system, and given stocks a boost.

Earlier in Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 shed 1.5 percent to 15,880.3 and China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.8 percent to 2,027.62. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.9 percent to 22,787.33.