Investing.com - European stocks were higher on Thursday, supported by the release of upbeat German economic growth data as well as ongoing speculation over possible easing measures by the European Central Bank.
During European morning trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.26%, France’s CAC 40 edged up 0.12%, while Germany’s DAX gained 0.31%.
Official data showed that French gross domestic product was flat in the first quarter, disappointing expectations for growth of 0.2%, as consumer spending slumped.
At the same time, data showed that Germany''s economy expanded 0.8% in the three months to March, beating expectations for 0.7%. The annual rate of growth in Germany rose by 2.5%, ahead of expectations for 2.2%.
Meanwhile, european equities remained supported amid growing expectations that the ECB could ease monetary policy as soon as next month.
Financial stocks were broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas (PARIS:BNPP) and Societe Generale (PARIS:SOGN) rose 0.26% and 0.39%, while Germany''s Commerzbank (XETRA:CBKG) jumped 1.28%.
Among peripheral lenders, Italy''s Intesa Sanpaolo (MILAN:ISP) and Unicredit (MILAN:CRDI) gained 0.38% and 0.61% respectively, while Spanish banks BBVA (MADRID:BBVA) and Banco Santander (MADRID:SAN) rose 0.27% and 0.31%.
Elsewhere, Zurich Insurance (SIX:ZURN) said first-quarter profit rallied 20%, sending shares up 0.58%.
In the same sector, Assicurazioni Generali (MILAN:GASI) advanced 0.79% after saying it is starting exclusive talks with Grupo BTG Pactual on the sale of the Italian company’s Swiss private banking unit BSI Group.
In London, FTSE 100 added 0.13%, as U.K. lenders tracked their European counterparts higher.
Shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland (LONDON:RBS) advanced 0.60% and Barclays (LONDON:BARC) gained 0.54%, while Lloyds Banking (LONDON:LLOY) and HSBC Holdings (LONDON:HSBA) climbed 0.56% and 0.61% respectively.
Sports Direct (LONDON:SPD) was one of the top performers on the index, with shares up 2%, amid reports the retailing group is in talks to buy 33 sites from gym chain LA Fitness.
Dixons Retail (LONDON:DXNS) added to gains, up 0.29%, after the consumer-electronics retailer agreed to an all-share merger of equals with Carphone Warehouse Group (LONDON:CPW).
Meanwhile, mining stocks were mixed as Rio Tinto (LONDON:RIO) slid 0.33% and Vedanta Resources (LONDON:VED) plunged 3.22%, while Glencore Xstrata (LONDON:GLEN) rose 0.57%.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.14% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.12% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.21% increase.
Later in the day, the euro zone was to release preliminary data on first quarter growth, as well as revised data on consumer price inflation for April.
The U.S. was to release data on initial jobless claims, consumer inflation and industrial production, as well as a report on manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region.
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