Europe closes higher after ECB lending meets estimates

European stock markets ticked higher at market close on Thursday after lending data from the European Central Bank (ECB) bouyed sentiment.

The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index finished around 0.1 higher at, with all major bourses flat to higher apart from London's FTSE 100, which unofficially ended 0.4 percent lower.

Germany's DAX held onto gains to close around 0.7 percent higher, as traders took bets on when the ECB might look to expand its balance sheet and launch a full-scale quantitative easing (QE) program.


ECB data meets expectations

Data on Thursday showed that the uptake of a low-rate loan program by the ECB met market expectations. The loans have been less than the ECB originally hoped for when the scheme was first announced.

However, it managed to beat many gloomier predictions, and analysts disagreed on what impact this might have on the potential for QE.

Read More ECB lending meets estimates; euro steady

Oil wobbles at $64

U.S. stocks surged on Thursday after the prior day's drubbing, as investors embraced data that had retail sales climbing in November and jobless claims falling last week.Figures from the Commerce Department had retail sales rising 0.7 percent last month, the largest increase in eight months.

The price of oil received a slight bounce on Thursday morning, with Brent futures rising to $64.46 per barrel, before falling to wobble around $64.

Read MoreBrent edges up toward $65, but Saudi stance on output curbs gains

Central banks in focus

On the data front, a second reading of French inflation data showed that consumer prices were weaker than expected in November, showing a monthly drop of 0.2 percent, compared to a flash figure of -0.1 percent. Germany's inflation figure was unchanged for November. Meanwhile Germany's Ifo institute released its 2015 outlook which expected 1.5 percent growth for the country next year.

Central banks outside the ECB were also in focus. The Swiss central bank kept policy on hold but Norway's bank decided to cut interest rates in a surprise move. The Central Bank of Russia (CBR) raised its key interest rate by 1 percent.

Read MoreNorway cuts rates insurprise move as economy ails

Telecom Italia upgraded

Shares of Telecom Italia surged as much as 4.7 percent on Thursday morning before closing around 2 percent higher, after the firm received an upgrade to a "neutral" by Credit Suisse.

Inditex - which owns clothing brand Zara - saw its shares rise 4.7 percent after reporting a promising start to the winter sales period. The firm said that store and online sales increased by 14 percent, in local currencies, between November 1 and December 8. It added that it had created 8,500 new jobs during the last year, 1,500 of which were in Spain.

Grocery delivery service Ocado also rose, climbing over 6 percent after it announced a 14.9 percent increase in retail sales for the fourth quarter.