Ukraine concerns ease
U.S. stocks continued to rise on Wednesday, with benchmark indexes extending gains into a second day. It came after data showed orders for longer-lasting products gained more than expected, even as corporate spending on equipment declined.
"The headline-beating 2.2 percent jump in orders for new durable goods in February was driven by a rebound in the transport sector. Stripping out that volatile component saw orders rise by a more humble 0.2 percent," noted Andrew Wilkinson, chief market analyst at Interactive Brokers.
"Relative to expectations the report showed pockets of strength, but failed overall to signal the final passage of a cruel winter," he added.
Financial-data firm Markit reported that the U.S.'s Purchasing Managers Index hit 55.8 in March, up from 54.1 a month earlier.
(Read more: US stocks end higher for first session in three on confidence data)
Meanwhile, investor concerns over tensions in Ukraine -- which caused stocks to fall on Monday -- seem to have eased for the time being. This came as the West looked ready to hold off on further sanctions unless President Vladimir Putin goes beyond the seizure of the Crimean Peninsula.
U.S. President Barack Obama told the EU on Wednesday that it needed to reduce its energy dependency on Russia, although it could not rely on the U.S. entirely. Obama said concluding a new EU/U.S. trade pact would make it easier for Washington to licence more gas exports.
On the data front, German consumer morale looks to be holding steady, according to an April GfK consumer climate survey on Wednesday. The figure for the month ahead was 8.5 which was flat from March and met expectations. The German DAX closed up 1.1. percent.