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Markets buoyed by new Dow record

LONDON (AP) — In the slipstream of another record high on the Dow Jones index, markets were solid Wednesday ahead of the publication of the minutes to the last meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Apart from Japan's Nikkei which has been buoyant on the back of a new aggressive approach from the Bank of Japan, stock markets around the world have largely languished over the past few days on concerns ranging from the tensions on the Korean peninsula, a new strain of bird flu in China that has killed 9 people and worries over Portugal's public finances.

Even so, the Dow Jones eked out a new record closing high of 14,673.46 amid hopes over the coming U.S. corporate earnings results season. That's helped shore up markets around the world in the run-up to the Fed statement.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was up 0.7 percent at 6,359 while Germany's DAX rose 1.2 percent to 7,732. The CAC-40 in France was 1.2 percent higher at 3,714.

"Airlines, who have not had the smoothest of flights over the last week thanks to the Asian bird flu concerns, are soaring," said Will Hedden, sales trader at IG.

Air-France KLM SA was leading the advance, trading 5.7 percent higher, while Deutsche Lufthansa AG rose 2 percent. IAG PLC, which is the name given to the tie-up between British Airways and Spain's Iberia was up 3 percent and Easyjet PLC jumped 4.3 percent.

The session on Wall Street is expected to be fairly calm in the run-up to the Fed minutes. Dow futures were 0.2 percent higher while the broader S&P 500 futures rose 0.3 percent.

Traders will be keen to see if there was a marked change in tone among rate-setters and specifically whether the central bank's monetary stimulus may end sooner than previously thought.

"The prospect of a curve-ball coming in from the Fed's meeting minutes release tonight really cannot be underestimated," said Fawad Razaqzada, market strategist at GFT Markets. "As such, this could result in at least a degree of caution once the session is underway."

The minutes could have a big impact on the dollar.

As such, it was fairly flat ahead of the minutes, with the euro 0.1 percent higher at $1.31. It was 0.3 percent higher at 99.44 yen, a modest recovery in the value of the Japanese currency, which has slid sharply over the past few days following the Bank of Japan's announcement.

Japan's stock market continued to rise on a wave of enthusiasm for the Bank's aggressive new approach to shaking the world's third-largest economy out of its two-decade slump. The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo rose 0.7 percent to close at 13,288.13 — its highest close in nearly five years.

Elsewhere, Asian stocks finished mostly higher. Hong Kong's Hang Seng gained 0.8 percent to 22,034.56. South Korea's Kospi advanced 0.7 percent to 1,933.48.

Mainland Chinese stocks were mixed after China released trade data for March. The Shanghai Composite Index rose marginally to 2,226.13. The smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.5 percent to 921.86.

The price of oil fell below $94 a barrel ahead of the release of supply figures expected to show an increase in crude stockpiles. The benchmark New York rate was 24 cents lower at $93.96 a barrel.