Markets steady after solid run as focus turns to ECB

Shares around in the world traded in narrow ranges Thursday after a solid couple of days largely related with hopes that the U.S. and China are ironing out their trade issues. The focus now turns to the European Central Bank press briefing with President Mario Draghi in the wake of the bank's decision to bring an end to its monetary stimulus.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany's DAX advanced 0.2 percent to 10,949 while the CAC 40 in France was up 0.1 percent at 4,913. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.2 percent at 6,867. Wall Street was set for a steady opening too with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures up 0.1 percent.

ECB ENDS STIMULUS: The European Central Bank says it will halt its 2.6-trillion euro ($3 trillion) stimulus program at year-end even though the economy is slowing amid worries about global trade wars and Britain's departure from the European Union. The decision by the bank's 25-member governing council closes out a nearly four year-long effort that Draghi credits with putting more than 9 million people in jobs and reinvigorated a stagnating economy. There will be interest on what Draghi says in his press conference about the state of the eurozone economy. The euro, which is flat at $1.1363, will likely bear the brunt of any market-moving news.

ANALYST TAKE: "The ECB should be an interesting affair despite slipping under the radar due to the political soap opera that is Brexit," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA. "Coming against the backdrop of slower regional growth in 2018 and less optimistic views on the global outlook for next year, the job of the ECB has just got harder."

BREXIT: The pounds advanced further after British Prime Minister Theresa May won a confidence vote among lawmakers from within her Conservative Party. The currency, which slumped earlier in the week to 20-month lows after May pulled a vote on her Brexit divorce deal with the European Union, has recovered ground since it became clear would win the confidence vote and that she would not face another one from her own party in the next year. Traders think that means she may have more room for manoeuver in her dealings with Parliament that could mean Britain ends up having close economic ties with the EU after Brexit officially happens in March. The pound was up 0.3 percent in morning trading at $1.2679.

THE DAY IN ASIA: Japan's Nikkei 225 index gained 1.0 percent to 21,816.19 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng report jumped 1.3 percent to 26,524.35. The Shanghai Composite index climbed 1.2 percent to 2,634.05 while the Kospi in South Korea added 0.6 percent to 2,095.55. India's Sensex advanced 0.7 percent to 36,016.89 while the S&P ASX 200 in Australia edged 0.1 percent higher to 5,661.60. Shares also rose in Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil fell 21 cents to $50.94 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 15 cents to $60.00 per barrel.