LONDON -  Stock markets were steady Thursday as investors paused for breath following strong gains seen earlier this week, traders said.

All eyes were on Wall Street, which opened unchanged, to see which direction investors would take the Dow index a day after US equity indices clocked up their biggest daily gains of the year so far. "Equities are flat as investors digest yet another Trump-inspired market surge, one which took both the FTSE and Wall St to fresh record highs," said Mike van Dulken of Accendo Markets.

"With markets having rallied so hard, and so close to record highs, investors are perhaps also waiting to see how ravenous the appetite is for shares in Snap when the company IPOs on the NYSE this afternoon," he said. Snap Inc, owner of the vanishing-message app, Snapchat, has priced its initial public offering (IPO) at $17 a share to raise $3.4 billion and give the California startup a hefty valuation of $24 billion. It's the largest US tech firm to make a market debut since Facebook in 2012.

Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said that investors were waiting for more hints at future interest rates moves. "The language from the Fed has become far more hawkish over the last couple of weeks and yesterday's comments from Lael Brainard -- arguably the most dovish policy maker -- was the icing on the cake," Erlam said.

"Not only is March now on the table, in many people's eyes it's the base case scenario which is a massive change from even a week ago." Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard, usually considered a dove, said she supported the case for an interest rate hike "soon". That came a day after two regional Fed presidents said they saw a strong case for tighter borrowing costs, while Fed boss Janet Yellen is due to give a speech Friday.

In Asia, Asian markets had ended the session mostly higher, picking up the baton from record performances in New York and Europe where traders cheered upbeat US economic data and Donald Trump's conciliatory speech to Congress. The US president's much-anticipated address on Tuesday, while lacking details, was broadly welcomed as he promised a trillion-dollar infrastructure splurge and tax cuts -- music to bullish investors' ears.

Global equity markets have thundered along since Trump's November election win as dealers bet his policies would light a fire under the US economy. The fact that he did away with the bellicose rhetoric of the past made him appear more presidential, according to some observers. In Europe, dealers tracked data showing eurozone inflation had in February hit the European Central Bank's 2.0 percent target for the first time since 2013 as its massive economic stimulus appeared to be finally paying off.

Unemployment in the 19-country single currency area in January meanwhile was 9.6 percent, unchanged from December but holding at its lowest rate since May 2009, the Eurostat statistics service said.