European stocks were higher on Thursday, as the minutes of the Federal Reserve's most recent policy meeting lent support to global equity markets, while investors eyed the Bank of England's policy statement later in the day.
During European morning trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 advanced 0.40%, France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.46%, while Germany’s DAX gained 0.69%.
Global equities were boosted after the Fed's March meeting minutes released on Wednesday showed that officials discussed whether to make a more explicit commitment to keeping short-term interest rates at record lows until inflation moves higher, but instead decided to wait.
The minutes also indicated growing concerns among officials over persistently low inflation.
Last month the U.S. central bank reduced the monthly pace of purchases by $10 billion, to $55 billion, and repeated it is likely to continue paring the program in “further measured steps.”
Financial stocks were broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas (BNPP.PAR) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PAR) rose 0.21% and 0.61%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank (DBKGn.XETRA) inched up 0.03%.
Among peripheral lenders, Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MILAN) and Unicredit (CRDI.MILAN) gained 0.36% and 1.01%, while Spanish banks BBVA (BBVA.MADRID) and Banco Santander (SAN.MADRID) added 0.10% and 0.22% respectively.
Elsewhere, Carrefour (CARR.PAR) fell 0.26% after the French retailer reported first-quarter revenue that matched analysts' estimates.
In London, FTSE 100 climbed 0.70%, as U.K. lenders tracked their European counterparts sharply higher.
Shares in Barclays (BARC.LSE) gained 0.43% and Lloyds Banking (LLOY.LSE) jumped 1.01%, while HSBC Holdings (HSBA.LSE) and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LSE) rallied 1.26% and 2% respectively.
The Royal Bank of Scotland found support after the bank reached an agreement to end the U.K. Treasury’s dividend access share, bringing the company a step closer to paying dividends.
Marks & Spencer (MKS.LSE) added to gains, up 2.13%, after the apparel retailer reported a smaller-than-expected drop in fourth-quarter general merchandise sales, thanks to improving demand for women's clothing.
In the mining sector, stocks were also broadly higher. Rio Tinto (RIO.LSE) advanced 1% and Glencore Xstrata (GLEN.LSE) climbed 1.09%, while rival company Bhp Billiton (BLT.LSE) gained 0.64% and Fresnillo (FRES.LSE) surged 2.01%.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.13% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.13% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.20% increase.
Also Thursday, official data showed that French industrial production rose 0.1% in February, below expectations for a 0.3% increase. Industrial production in January was revised down to a 0.3% drop from a previously estimated 0.2% fall.
Later in the day, the U.S. Labor Department was to release its weekly report on initial jobless claims.