Investing.com - European stocks were higher on Thursday, as investors awaited the release of the European Central Bank''s monthly policy statement later in the trading session.
During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 climbed 0.65%, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.55%, while Germany’s DAX 30 rose 0.35%.
The ECB was expected to hold off cutting rates later Thursday but was expected to take other steps to tighten policy, amid ongoing concerns over the subdued inflation outlook for the euro area.
Figures released last Friday showed the annual rate of inflation in the euro area was unchanged at 0.8% in February, well below the ECB''s target of just under 2.0%.
Data on Wednesday showing that euro zone private sector activity grew more rapidly than initially estimated in February, expanding at the fastest pace since June 2011 eased pressure on the bank to cut rates.
A separate report showed that euro zone retail sales rose more strongly than forecast in January.
Financial stocks were broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale jumped 0.91% and 1.41%, although Germany''s Deutsche Bank climbed 0.80%.
Among peripheral lenders, Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit surged 1.70% and 2.14% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander and BBVA rallied 1.24% and 1.33%.
Elsewhere, Vivendi SA gained 1.17% after the media-to-telecommunications group said it received two bids for the French phone unit SFR it was planning to spin off. Bouygues, up 5.44%, said its bid values SFR at almost €19 billion.
Bouygues is reportedly offering €10.5 billion euros in cash and will contribute assets to the new entity.
In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 rose 0.27%, supported by gains in the mining sector.
Shares in Rio Tinto climbed 0.78% and Glencore Xstrata jumped 1.69%, while rivals Polymetal and Vedanta Resources rallied 0.91% and 3.35% respectively.
Financial stocks were also broadly higher, as Lloyds Banking gained 0.66% and Barclays climbed 0.72%, while the Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC Holdings advanced 0.79% and 0.82%.
On the downside, IMI saw shares plummet 4.81% after the British engineer said adjusted pretax profit for the full year rose 8%, helped by a surge in orders in its severe service division.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.19% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.22% increase, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.16% gain.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish the weekly report on initial jobless claims and data on factory orders.
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