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European stocks rise ahead of ECB policy statement; Dax up 0.32%

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Investing.com - European stocks were higher on Thursday, as speculation that the European Central Bank will soon cut interest rates supported sentiment ahead of the bank's monthly meeting later in the day.

During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 climbed 0.51%, France's CAC 40 advanced 0.54%, while Germany's DAX 30 rose 0.32%.

The ECB was widely expected to leave rates on hold at 0.75%, but concerns over the economic outlook for the region fuelled speculation over the prospect of future rate cuts.

Data on Wednesday confirmed that the euro zone economy contracted by 0.6% in the fourth quarter, in line with preliminary estimates and economists' forecasts.

Sentiment was also supported by Wednesday's upbeat ADP nonfarm payrolls data, which fuelled optimism over a recovery in the U.S. labor market.

Financial stocks were mixed. In France, shares in Societe Generale rose 0.37% and BNP Paribas jumped 0.79%, while in Germany, Deutsche Bank slid 0.47% and Commerzbank retreated 0.56%.

Meanwhile, peripheral lenders were broadly higher, with Italian banks Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo climbing 0.52% and 0.63%, while Spain's BBVA and Banco Santander advanced 0.68% and 0.77%.

Elsewhere, Carrefour surged 5.42% after saying annual recurring operating income fell 2.6% to EUR2.14 billion, beating the EUR2.07 billion average estimate.

In London, FTSE 100 rose 0.31%, as markets eyed the outcome of the Bank of England's policy meeting, later in the day.

Aggreko was one of the session's top gainers, soaring 9.36%, after the temporary power generator reported an 11% rise in profits following last year's GBP60 million contract to supply the London Olympics.

Financial stocks added to gains, as shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland added 0.18% and HSBC Holdings climbed 0.46%, while Barclays rallied 1.32%. Lloyds Banking underperformed on the other hand, losing 1.08%.

Mining stocks also trended higher, as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rose 0.31% and 0.73%, while copper producer Kazakhmys added 0.18%.

On the downside, Aviva plunged 13.90% as the insurance company said it won't pay bonuses to its executive directors or award pay rises for 2013 after cutting its second-half dividend by 44%.

In the U.S., equity markets pointed to a higher open. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.19% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.14% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.20% increase.

Later in the day, Germany was to produce official data on factory orders, while the U.S. was to publish the weekly government report on initial jobless claims and official data on the trade balance.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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