European stocks push higher, Ifo data supports; Dax up 0.82%

European stocks pushed higher on Thursday, supported by the release of upbeat German business climate data, while European Central Bank President Mario Draghi reiterated warnings that the strong euro could trigger additional monetary easing.

During European afternoon trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 climbed 0.71%, France’s CAC 40 rallied 1.03%, while Germany’s DAX advanced 0.82%.

Market sentiment found support after German research institute Ifo reported that its business climate index rose to a two-month high of 111.2 this month from 110.7 in March, ahead of expectations for 110.5.

Meanwhile, speaking at a conference in Amsterdam, Draghi said the euro exchange rate is an 'increasingly important factor' in monetary policy.

The exchange rate is not a policy target in itself, the ECB chief said, but the bank’s monetary policy stance could be affected by a continued appreciation in the currency.

He also said the ECB could launch a 'broad-based' asset purchase program if the medium-term inflation outlook worsened.

Financial stocks remained broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas (BNPP.PAR) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PAR) surged 2% and 1.84%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.XETRA) added 0.23%.

Among peripheral lenders, Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MILAN) and Unicredit (CRDI.MILAN) jumped 1.55% and 1.96% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander (SAN.MADRID) and BBVA (BBVA.MADRID) rallied 1% and 1.59%.

Alstom (ALSO.PAR) added to gains, with shares soaring 13.89%, supported by reports General Electric (NYSE:GE) has held talks to buy the French train maker.

On the downside, Michelin (MICP.PAR) plunged 3.87% after the tiremaker reported a 2.4% drop in first-quarter revenue, affected by the strong euro and weaker demand in Eastern Europe due to the Ukrainian crisis.

In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 gained 0.68%, still supported by sharp gains in energy and mining stocks as commodity prices moved higher.

Oil and gas major Anglo American (AAL.LSE) saw shares surge 3.12%, while mining companies Rio Tinto (RIO.LSE) and Vedanta Resources (VED.LSE) jumped 1.35% and 0.97% respectively.

Astrazeneca (AZN.LSE) extended earlier gains, up 3.98%, even as the U.K.'s second biggest drugmaker reported first-quarter profit that missed analysts' estimates.

Financial stocks also pushed higher, with Lloyds Banking (LLOY.LSE) rallying 1.16% and Barclays (BARC.LSE) up 1.49%, while HSBC Holdings (HSBA.LSE) and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LSE) advanced 0.77% and 0.93%.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.21% gain, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.36% increase, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 1.22% jump.

Also Thursday, Spain’s Treasury sold €2.65 billion worth of ten-year government bonds at an average yield of 3.059%, down from 3.291% at a previous auction last month.

In addition, Spain sold €1.58 billion of five-year debt at an average yield of 1.663%, down from 1.869%. Madrid also sold €1.35 billion of three-year debt at a yield of 1.022%, down from 1.331% at a previous auction.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish data on durable goods orders and the weekly report on initial jobless claims.