Investing.com - European stocks remained higher on Thursday, after the release of better-than-expected euro zone data and as the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest meeting indicated that policymakers remain divided on when to start scaling back the bank's stimulus program.
During European afternoon trade, the EURO STOXX 50 rallied 1.25%, France's CAC 40 gained 1.05%, while Germany's DAX 30 jumped 1.07%.
European equities gained ground after data showed that the flash euro zone manufacturing purchasing managers' index rose to 51.3 from a final reading of 50.3 in July, expanding at the fastest pace in 26 months. Analysts had expected the index to inch up to 50.8.
Meanwhile, the flash euro zone services PMI rose to a 24-month high of 51.0 from 49.8 in July, better than expectations for a reading of 50.2.
Germany's manufacturing PMI rose to a 25 month high of 52.0, while the country's services PMI rose to a six-month high of 52.4.
In the U.S., the minutes of the Fed's July meeting showed that officials were "broadly comfortable" with plans to scale back the bank's USD85 billion-a-month stimulus program.
However, policymakers remain divided over the timing of possible tapering, with almost all committee members agreeing that a change in the purchase program was not yet appropriate.
Financial stocks pushed higher, as French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale advanced 2.28% and 2.10%, while Germany's Deutsche Bank rallied 1.72%.
Among peripheral lenders, Spanish banks Banco Santander and BBVA gained 1.75% and 1.92% respectively, while Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo and Unicredit surged 1.72% and 2.90%.
Elsewhere, Royal Ahold soared 4.83% after the Dutch owner of the Stop & Shop supermarket chain reported second-quarter underlying operating income that exceeded analysts' estimates.
In London, FTSE 100 climbed 0.83%, supported by sharp gains in financial stocks.
Shares in Barclays advanced 0.65% and HSBC Holdings jumped 1.59%, while the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking rallied 2.42% and 2.33%.
Mining stocks were also on the upside, with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton gaining 1.59% and 1.76% respectively, while Glencore Xstrata and Evraz soared 2.49% and 5.27%.
In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.31% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.44% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.57% increase.
Also Thursday, data showed that the preliminary reading of China's HSBC manufacturing PMI rose to a four-month high of 50.1 in August, up from 47.7 in June. Economists had forecast a reading of 48.3.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish a report on initial jobless claims.
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