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Europe Closes Up on Upbeat UK GDP

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Risk appetite returned to European markets on Thursday, as investor confidence got a further boost from the news that the U.K. avoided a triple-dip recession in the first quarter.

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The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed 0.7 percent higher at 1,199.71, after the U.K. posted first-quarter GDP numbers that showed a 0.3 percent expansion, up on estimates of a 0.1 percent rise.

High profile economists and the International Monetary Fund have urged U.K. Finance Minister George Osborne to consider scaling back his austerity program, but he has refused so far.

(Read More: UK Avoids 'Triple-Dip' but Struggle Lies Ahead)

"While GDP growth of 0.3 percent quarter-on-quarter is a cause for minor celebration, it does not fundamentally alter the picture of an economy that is struggling to develop even moderate, sustainable expansion," Howard Archer, an economist at IHS Insights, said in a research note.

Markets initially moved lower on Thursday on the news that Spanish unemployment reached a record high in the first quarter. Madrid's IBEX 35 was the worst performer out of the major European country indexes, closing provisionally down 0.29 percent.

(Read More: Spain Unemployment Rate Hits Record 27.2%)

In a busy day for earnings on both sides of the Atlantic, consumer goods firm Unilever, Banco Santander, Denmark's Novozymes, Pernod Ricard and AstraZeneca all lurked around the bottom of the STOXX 600 after posting disappointing results. Unilever said it had been hit by slowing North American sales growth and unusually cold weather in Europe; its stock closed nearly 3 percent lower.

At the other end of the STOXX 600 was Kazkhmys, which closed around 4.26 percent higher after reporting that first-quarter copper output rose a hearty 12 percent year-on-year. However, there was worse news for competitor ENRC, as Britain's Serious Fraud Office confirmed it has launched a criminal investigation into the Kazakh miner for allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption.

Meanwhile, Verizon Communications has hired advisors to prepare a $100 billion cash-and-stock-bid to take full control of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing anonymous sources. The U.K.'s Vodafone closed around 1.65 percent higher.

(Read More: Verizon Eyes $100 Billion Bid for Verizon Wireless)

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Contact Europe: Economy

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