European stocks were sharply higher on Wednesday, as the release of upbeat economic growth data from China boosted risk appetite, while markets continued to monitor developments in Ukraine.
During European morning trade, the DJ Euro Stoxx 50 advanced 0.96%, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.98%, while Germany’s DAX jumped 0.97%.
Global equities strengthened after data earlier 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 kept an eye on 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.
The U.S. and the E.U. recently announced that they are considering further sanctions against Moscow after pro-Russian separatists on Monday ignored an ultimatum to leave occupied government buildings in eastern Ukraine.
Financial stocks were broadly higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas (BNPP.PAR) and Societe Generale (SOGN.PAR) rallied 1.36% and 1.07%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB) jumped 1.32%.
Among peripheral lenders, Italy's Unicredit (CRDI.MILAN) and Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MILAN) surged 2.16% and 2.30% respectively, while Spanish banks Banco Santander (SAN.MADRID) and BBVA (BBVA.MADRID) advanced 1.13% and 1.22%.
Elsewhere, Syngenta (SYNN.SIX) gained 1.60% 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) plunged 4.31% after Europe’s largest semiconductor-equipment supplier forecast second-quarter sales below estimates.
In London, FTSE 100 climbed 0.68%, supported by sharp gains in Tesco (TSCO.LSE) shares, up 4.04%, 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 were also broadly higher, as HSBC Holdings (HSBA.LSE) edged up 0.12% and Lloyds Banking (LLOY.LSE) advanced 0.70%, while Barclays (BARC.LSE) and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LSE)gained 0.68% and 0.74% respectively.
In the mining sector, stocks were mixed. Rio Tinto (RIO.LSE) edged up 0.06% and Bhp Billiton (BLT.LSE) saw shares rise 0.39%, while Vedanta Resources (VED.LSE) slid 0.33% and Fresnillo (FRES.LSE) declined 0.69%.
Earlier in the day, BHP Billiton raised its full-year iron ore production guidance after third-quarter output increased by 23%, above analysts' expectations.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow 30 futures pointed to a 0.39% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.42% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.43% increase.
Later in the day, the euro zone was to release revised data on inflation, while the U.S. was to produce reports on housing starts, building permits and industrial production.