EU Stocks Up Ahead of ECB Decision

TOKYO (AP) -- European shares rose and the euro weakened Thursday ahead of an expected ECB decision to increase stimulus. Asian markets mostly fell after the U.S. Federal Reserve chief indicated the central bank is on track for an interest rate hike this month.

KEEPING SCORE: France's CAC 40 rose 0.5 percent to 4,928.18 in early trading and Germany's DAX was up 0.3 percent at 11,226.84. Britain's FTSE 100 inched up 0.2 percent to 6,432.50. The euro slipped to $1.0564 from $1.0607 on Wednesday. U.S. stocks were set to gain. Dow futures rose 0.3 percent to 17,817.00 and S&P 500 futures added 0.4 percent to 2,089.00.

EYES ON EUROPE: The European Central Bank is expected to expand its stimulus program when policymakers meet on Thursday as part of effort to revive the region's economy and prevent deflation. It will either expand its bond purchases or cut interest rates further. ECB head Mario Draghi signaled that action is coming this week as the bank seeks to support growth and push inflation higher.

THE QUOTE: "Ever since the ECB lowered its forecasts in September, followed by President Draghi's comments in October, there is no doubt that more easing action is necessary to bring inflation up as quickly as possible to close in on the 2 percent target," said Bernard Aw, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

FED ACTION: Investors are weighing the prospects that the Fed will raise rates for the first time in nine years at its next policy meeting in mid-December. In comments Wednesday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave an upbeat assessment of the economy's progress since the Fed's last meeting in October, describing it as in line with its expectations for the labor market and inflation. She also was careful to point out the need to review upcoming data, including the U.S. jobs report Friday.

ASIA'S DAY: Japan's Nikkei 225 ended little changed at 19,939.90 after recouping losses. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.8 percent to 1,994.07. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.3 percent to 22,417.01 while the Shanghai Composite gained 1.4 percent to 3,584.82. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 5,277.70. Stock benchmarks also fell in Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was up 41 cents to $40.35 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange after slipping below the $40 mark the day before. The futures contract dropped $1.91, or 4.6 percent, to $39.94 a barrel in New York on Wednesday. Brent crude, which is used to set prices for international oils, was up 62 cents to $43.11 a barrel in London. It fell $1.95, or 4.4 percent, to $42.49 the previous day.

CURRENCIES: The U.S. dollar strengthened to 123.48 yen from 123.27 yen on Wednesday.