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Europe shares close higher for second week; Ukraine still watched

European stocks held onto gains on Friday, with investor sentiment boosted by hopes of monetary easing in China and the euro zone.

ECB, China stimulus?

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index provisionally closed higher by 0.7 percent at 1,331.67 points, ending the week in positive territory, although still off the five-and-a-half year high it reached in February.

This was its second consecutive weekly gain, as investors largely shrugged off lingering fears regarding the situation in Crimea.

For the week, the U.K. FTSE 100 closed up around 0.8 percent, the German DAX was higher by 2.6 percent and the French CAC 40 saw gains of 1.7 percent.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
Volume
FTSE
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DAX
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CAC 40
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IBEX 35
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In the euro zone, Spanish consumer price data disappointed, falling by 0.2 percent in March (year-on-year), compared to an expected a 0.1 percent drop. The weak data increased hopes that the European Central Bank will act to prop-up weak inflation.

(Read more: Spanish CPI shock flags euro deflation risks)

Meanwhile, a final reading of U.K. GDP (gross domestic product) confirmed growth of 0.7 percent in the fourth-quarter of last year. However, the full-year reading was revised down to 1.7 percent.

The U.K.'s basic resources sector maintained a strong rally on Friday. Mining stocks - which have a heavy exposure to China - have had a mixed week, with fluctuating commodity prices and talk of stimulus in China pushing the sector in different directions. Metal producers Fresnillo and Anglo American were at the top of pan-European indexes on Friday

(Read more: Asian equities turn around to climb higher on China stimulus hopes)

"The ECB (European Central Bank) and potentially China may be may ramping up their stimulus. There is talk of potential easing and stimulus in China, and the consumer spending data was pretty good, so putting it all together, there is good news here at home and possibly of the Federal Reserve passing the baton to some other central banks," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

U.S. stocks also rose sharply on Friday, rebounding after a two-day bout of losses, after data showed U.S. consumer spending rising. Reports on Friday had had consumer spending and incomes rising 0.3 percent in February.

Ukraine watched

Meanwhile, investors continued to focus on events in Ukraine, which heavily weighed on European markets earlier in the week

Russian troops have amassed near the Ukraine borders, according to several news reports, leading to concerns that Russia is looking at another incursion into the eastern European nation. Nearly 100,000 troops have gathered, according to AFP, who cited a top Ukrainian official, although this number is much higher than U.S. military estimates.

Russian soldiers were actively concealing their positions and establishing supply lines, Dow Jones reported Friday, suggesting a prolonged deployment.

(Read more: Danger of pricing in a 'big bang' China stimulus)

Russian stocks closed higher by 0.9 percent on Friday.

Insurers fall

In stocks news, insurance stocks in the U.K like Legal & General and Avia fell by 3.5 and 2.75 percent respectively after the country's regulator said it was going to pursue an investigation into charges in the sector.

(Read more: UK watchdog to probe £150bn insurance policies)

Shares of Italian tyremaker Pirelli provisionally closed higher by 3.2 percent after the company posted results that were in line with estimates and gave an encouraging outlook for the year ahead.

Also in Italy, retail bank Intesa Sanpaolo posted a net loss of $6.25 billion on Friday, but indicated it was on course to rebuild profits and close 800 branches; shares ended the day higher by roughly 3.5 percent.

Daimler shares closed higher by 2.6 percent after it announced its China joint venture was to more than double output of some of its models in 2015.

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