Europe closes sharply higher after ECB gives Greece hope

Europe closes sharply higher after ECB gives Greece hope
Europe closes sharply higher after ECB gives Greece hope   

European equities finished higher on Thursday after the Greek parliament approved Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' reforms plan and the European Central Bank (ECB) extended its emergency funding for the stricken country's banks.

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The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed up around 1.3 percent higher, having pared slight gains after the ECB's press conference.

Britain's FTSE 100 finished trade around 0.6 percent higher. The German DAX and France's CAC both ended the day on a high, closing around 1.5 percent. Italy's FTSE MIB finished around 1.7 percent higher.

U.S. stocks traded higher on Thursday as investors focused on earnings beats amid progress towards near-term resolution in the Greek debt crisis.

Things have changed in Greece: Draghi
Things have changed in Greece: Draghi   

The ECB kept its benchmark refinancing rate unchanged at 0.05 percent as expected. In his regular press conference, ECB chief Mario Draghi confirmed that the central bank would hike its emergency lending to Greek banks by 900 million euros ($978 million) over one week.

The euro was trading down against the dollar between 0.6 and 0.8 percent during the conference, however pared earlier losses and was trading down around 0.5 percent against the U.S. currency at the market close.

Banks rebound

European banks, which have come under a lot of pressure over the past few weeks over concerns about their exposure to the Greece crisis, got some reprieve on Thursday.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Greece's parliament voted in favor of an austerity bill that paves the way for a third bailout, although ahead of the vote a violent protest erupted on the streets of Athens.

As a result, the Stoxx 600 banking sector was up 1.4 percent by the close. Banca Popolare Di Milano and Unicredit were top performers, finishing 2.8 and 2 percent higher respectively.

Earnings in focus; Autos pass green light

With the earnings season underway, focus shifted to a raft of companies reporting this morning.

Europe's largest retailer, Carrefour, reported second-quarter results that showed sales slowing in its core market of France, but a better performance in Spain. Carrefour's shares finished around 2.8 percent higher.

Engineering group Alfa Laval surged to the top of the Stoxx 600, ended around 12.5 percent higher after it reported stronger-than-expected earnings.

Watchmaker Swatch closed up over 5 percent after it was upbeat on its outlook for the rest of the year despite reporting a near 20 percent fall in profit in the first half of the year due to a strong franc and negative interest rates.

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Swedbank said its second-quarter net profit came in at 3.7 billion Swedish krona ($433.8 million), in line with forecasts, but said negative interest rates put its profits under pressure. Sweden's Riksbank cut interest rates to -0.35 percent in the second quarter. Despite this, shares in Swedbank were around 1.6 percent higher by the close.

The Stoxx 600 autos sector raced ahead of other sectors, trading to close up over 2 percent higher following data from the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association that showed new car sales in the region rose 14.8 percent year-on-year in June.

BMW and Continental sped up, closing 2.3 and 2.9 percent higher respectively.

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