Europe stocks close higher on Yellen statement
European equities closed higher on Thursday following dovish remarks from U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen, who began her confirmation hearing in front of a Senate Committee to become the central bank's next chairman.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index provisionally closed up[ 0.9 percent at 1,294.87 points, despite some soft data from the euro zone.
The euro zone's economy grew by just 0.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013, marking a slowdown from an expansion of 0.3 percent in the second quarter. The latest growth data from statistics agency Eurostat showed that growth in the 17-nation bloc had contracted 0.4 percent this time last year. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected growth of 0.2 percent in the third quarter.
France reported disappointing GDP (gross domestic product) figures as concerns about reforms to its economy grow. The euro zone's second-largest economy's GDP shrunk by 0.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013, compared to an expected 0.1 percent growth. However, the CAC 40 closed up 1.1 percent.
Meanwhile, Germany's economy expanded 0.3 percent in the third quarter from the previous three months, meeting forecasts, and 0.6 percent from the same time in 2012. The figure for the whole euro zone is due out at 10 a.m. London time.
(Read More: French GDP disappoints, Germany reassures)
But a sense of relief regarding the stimulus from the Federal Reverse pushed bourses higher. Ahead of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Janet Yellen released a statement after Wednesday's U.S. market close. She said the Federal Reserve needs to do more work to support the economic recovery before it can return to "a more normal approach" to monetary policy, echoing the sentiment of Chairman Ben Bernanke.
While she noted that the U.S. economy has made progress, she also voiced her concern over the unemployment rate being too high at 7.3 percent and said inflation remained below the Fed's 2 percent target.
European markets were also supported by French conglomerate Bouygues, which closed higher by 6.15 percent and hit two-year highs after beating quarterly earnings forecasts due to cost savings and higher construction orders.
In the U.K., retail sales data showed a surprise drop for the month of October. Volumes shrank 0.7 percent on the month, according to the Office for National Statistics, whereas analysts had expected no change.
In stocks news, EADS rose 1.56 percent despite CEO Tom Enders warning on future cash generation and the new A350 XWB product, a new fuel-efficient twin-engine jetliner.
(Read More: EADS raises aircraft orders as demand improves)
Shares of Zurich Insurance Group closed higher by 2.5 percent after forecast-beating earnings.
(Read More: Zurich third-quarter earnings beat expectations)
Oil and gas exploration company Ophir Energy saw its shares surged 9.96 percent as it agreed to the sale of a $1.3 billion Tanzanian gas field.
Prudential shares provisionally closed up 2.17 percent after the insurance giant reported earnings growth in its third quarter, driven by new business profit in Asia.
British Gas owner Centrica, one of Britain's big six utilities, closed down 5.11 percent, after warning that earnings would not grow this year. Utilities was the only European sector to close down on Thursday, falling 0.67 percent.
In better news, British luxury brand Burberry closed up 1.84 percent after first-half sales exceeded £1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) for the first time.
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