During European morning trade, the EURO STOXX 50 edged up 0.05%, France’s CAC 40 added 0.28%, while Germany’s DAX 30 rose 0.26%.
European stocks closed higher Wednesday despite the release of weak euro zone retail sales data and a disappointing Spanish debt auction as solid U.S. numbers supported sentiment.
Launching the rally, U.S. non-farm productivity rose more than initially expected in the third quarter, while unit labor costs declined sharply, revised data showed on Wednesday.
In a report, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said non-farm business sector labor productivity rose by a seasonally adjusted 2.9% in the third quarter, above expectations for a gain of 2.7% and up from a preliminary estimate of a 1.9% increase.
The report also said unit labor costs fell by a seasonally adjusted 1.9% in the third quarter, compared to expectations for a 0.9% decline and down from an initial estimate of a 0.1% drop.
Government data earlier indicated retail sales in the euro zone dropped by 1.2% in October, far more than the expected 0.1% decline, after a 0.6% fall the previous month.
In addition, Spain raised EUR4.3 billion at an auction of government debt, falling short of the target of EUR4.5 billion.
But sentiment remained supported after Greece launched a scheme to buy back debt from private investors on Monday, as part of an agreement to reduce its debt load and unlock a new bailout package worth EUR44 billion.
Financial stocks remained broadly higher, as shares in French lenders BNP Paribas and Societe Generale rose 0.32% and 0.25%, while Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank rallied 1.30% and 2.24% respectively.
Peripheral lenders were also on the upside, as Italian banks Unicredit and Intesa Sanpaolo added 0.21% and 0.30%, while Spain’s BBVA and Banco Santander advancd 0.58% and 0.05%.
Elsewhere, Nokia Oyj soared 7.11%, after the Finnish mobile-phone maker unveiled a version of its flagship smartphone for China’s largest wireless carrier, China Mobile Ltd.
In London, commodity-heavy FTSE 100 added 0.15%, supported by sharp gains in oil and mining stocks, while data showed that the service sector expanded at the slowest pace in almost two years in November.
Oil and gas major Anglo American saw shares rally 3.34%, while rival BP dropped 0.68% on the other hand, erasing earlier gains.
Mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton remained higher, with shares advancing 2.68% and 2.25%, while copper producers Xstrata and Kazakhmys jumped 0.93% and 3.57% respectively.
Meanwhile, U.K. lenders tracked their European counterparts higher, as the Royal Bank of Scotland added 0.20% and Lloyds Banking rose 0.30%, while Barclays climbed 0.49% and HSBC Holdings advanced 0.68%.
HSBC announced earlier that it agreed to sell its stake in China’s Ping An Insurance to Thai billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont for USD9.4 billion, in a move to revive profit and boost capital.
In the U.S., stocks traded mixed midsession with the Dow Jones up 0.85%, the S&P 500 higher by 0.45% and the tech heavy Nasdaq down 0.35%
Also Wednesday, Markit research group said that Spain’s services purchasing managers’ index rose to a seasonally adjusted 42.4 in November, from 41.2 the previous month. Analysts had expected the index to fall to 41.0 last month.
Investors are awaiting the Canadian Ivey PMI and the Great Britain interest rate decision on Thursday.