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Shares rise as Ukraine tensions continue to ebb

TOKYO - Shares rose ahead of a monthly policy meeting of the European Central Bank on Thursday as easing tensions in the Ukraine kept markets stable after their recent bout of volatility.

Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.3 percent to 6,797.14 and Germany's DAX added 0.4 percent to 9,577.35. The CAC-40 in France rose 0.6 percent to 4,416.72.

Wall Street looked poised for gains, with both Dow futures and S&P 500 futures up 0.2 percent. Few economists think the ECB will ease policy further, given recent upbeat economic data for the 18-country euro currency union.

Investor sentiment overall has improved as the standoff between Russia and the West over Ukraine continued to ease. Markets are still monitoring developments in Ukraine, but the focus is shifting to China and to a slew of economic news late this week, culminating with Friday's U.S jobs report for February.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average rose 1.6 percent to 15,134.75 as the dollar headed back toward 103 yen after dropping in previous days on safe-haven buying of the Japanese currency. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.6 percent at 22,702.97 and South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 1,975.62. Markets in Southeast Asia were higher.

"The markets had a good rebound and now they are locked in a range," said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

Shanghai's benchmark climbed 0.3 percent to 2,059.58 after Finance Minister Lou Jiwei, speaking on the sidelines of the national legislative session, said the government could tolerate growth less than 7.5 percent this year provided sufficient new jobs are created.

Among currencies, the euro was little changed at $1.3727 from $1.3734 late Wednesday. The U.S. dollar rose to 102.76 yen from 102.37 yen.

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for April delivery cost $101.31, down 14 cents in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Wednesday it fell $1.88 to $101.45. Early in the week, prices for assets like oil and gold jumped due to the tensions in Ukraine.

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