Europe shares close up, boosted by US data and Vodafone
European shares closed higher on Thursday, with investor sentiment boosted by earnings reports and the news that the U.S. economy accelerated more quickly than expected in the second quarter.
The FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed up 0.8 percent at 1,207.52 points, following several days of losses amid growing tensions in Syria.
Shares of Vodafone surged 8.55 percent after it confirmed it was in talks with U.S. company Verizon Communications about selling its stake in Verizon Wireless. The telecoms sector closed up 3.50 percent on Thursday.
European shares extended gains in afternoon trading following data from the U.S. Commerce Department reporting that the U.S. economy accelerated more quickly than expected in the second quarter to a 2.5 percent annual growth rate.
Furthermore, U.S. weekly jobless claims declined 6,000 to a seasonally adjusted 331,000, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected applications to fall to only 332,000.
(Read More: France boosts profit at Europe's largest supermarket)
Other data releases on Thursday included Spanish second quarter GDP which met market expectations, with a contraction of 0.1 percent (quarter-on-quarter). German joblessness rose by 7,000 in August, according to official data, while the German jobless rate stayed unchanged at 6.8 percent.
Asian equities closed mostly higher on Thursday, as sentiment improved following a positive handover from Wall Street. But ongoing tensions in the Middle East limited gains.
Britain's government on Thursday published internal legal advice it had been given which it said showed it was legally entitled to take military action against Syria even if the United Nations Security Council blocked such action. The U.K. Parliament debated the issue in the House of Commons today.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama appeared to still support a limited military strike against Syria.
Zurich Insurance chairman resigns
In other stock news, French alcoholic drinks maker Pernod Ricard reported annual sales growth slightly below some analysts' expectations, hit by persistent weakness in China. The world's second-biggest spirits group relies on Asia for roughly 40 percent of sales and it has been hurt by a government clampdown on luxury gifts in China. Shares of the French retailer Pernod Ricard were down by 1.85 percent.
Shares of Zurich Insurance fell by 2.47 percent after Chairman Josef Ackermann resigned, after indicating that he felt pressured to share the responsibility for the death of Chief Financial Officer Pierre Wauthier. The Swiss SMI index was one of the standout fallers in Thursday's session, falling 0.16 percent, with Zurich shares weighing down the bourse
Shares of Carrefour jumped by 5.60 percent after the world's second-largest retailer reported a 4.9 percent rise in first-half recurring operating profit, due to improvements in its core French business.
Shares of media company Vivendi moved higher by 1.6 percent despite reporting weak first -half results. The firm announced that it was still planning to sell its Maroc Telecom unit by the end of the year.
Shares of U.K.-based advertiser WPP rose by 4.16 percent after reporting a slight rise in its full-year revenue target.
Security firm Serco was the biggest faller, down 11.21 percent, after the British government revealed serious faults with its prisoner escort services. All its government was putunder review in July, and the firm could be banned from bidding other government contracts
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