European stocks hold gains, China GDP still supports; Dax up 0.86%

European stocks remained higher on Wednesday, as an upbeat economic growth report from China continued to support market sentiment, while markets still monitored events in Ukraine.

During European afternoon trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 jumped 0.96%, France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.91%, while Germany’s DAX climbed 0.86%.

Global equities strengthened earlier, after data showed that China’s gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 7.4% in the first three months of 2014, slowing from 7.7% in the fourth quarter, but slightly ahead of expectations for growth of 7.3%.

Meanwhile, investors continued to monitor developments in Ukraine after local acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, said an airfield in Kramatorsk had been taken back from separatists on Tuesday, suggesting military action by Ukraine had started.

Financial stocks remained broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas (BNPP.PAR) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PAR) gained 0.77% and 0.19%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.XETRA) jumped 0.94%.

Among peripheral lenders, Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MILAN) and Unicredit (CRDI.MILAN) surged 2.57% and 2.65% respectively, while Spanish banks BBVA (BBVA.MADRID) and Banco Santander (SAN.MADRID) advanced 0.78% and 1%.

Elsewhere, Syngenta (SYNN.SIX) rallied 1.25% after the Swiss specialized chemicals company reported first-quarter revenue that met analysts’ estimates and confirmed its full-year sales target.

On the downside, ASML Holding (ASML.AMS) plummeted 2.88% after Europe’s largest semiconductor-equipment supplier forecast second-quarter sales below estimates.

In London, FTSE 100 rose 0.38%, still supported by Tesco (TSCO.LSE), up 2.93%, after the retailer said earnings at its international unit fell less than expected thanks to a boost in same-store sales growth in four European markets in the fourth quarter.

Financial stocks also remained mostly higher, as Lloyds Banking (LLOY.LSE) added 0.18% and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LSE) gained 0.48%, while Barclays (BARC.LSE) climbed 0.71%. HSBC Holdings (HSBA.LSE) turned lower however, sliding 0.34%.

In the mining sector, stocks were still mixed. Bhp Billiton (BLT.LSE) eased up 0.03% and Glencore Xstrata (GLEN.LSE) added 0.18%, while Vedanta Resources (VED.LSE) fell 0.16% and Fresnillo (FRES.LSE) declined 0.78%.

Earlier in the day, BHP Billiton raised its full-year iron ore production guidance after third-quarter output increased by 23%, above analysts' expectations.

Also in the U.K., data showed that the unemployment rate fell to a five year low of 6.9% in the three months to February, bolstering the outlook for the wider economic recovery.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.45% gain, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.50% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.59% climb.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to produce reports on housing starts, building permits and industrial production.