Aside from individual stocks news, sentiment was boosted by data from the euro zone on Wednesday that showed the region's inflation rate fell into negative territory for the first time since 2009. The figures add more pressure on the ECB to launch a U.S. Federal-Reserve-style bond-buying program.
There has been resistance to any such a quantitative easing program from countries like Germany, however, and markets are now awaiting the outcome of the ECB's meeting on January 22 to see what the central bank will do. Aggressive stimulus could increase the search for yield and boost riskier assets like stocks—as such, the weak inflation data is being seen as positive by market participants.
On the data front, a euro area business confidence index for December fell to 0.04 versus a reading of 0.17 in November. Also, German factory orders on Thursday morning showed a sharp monthly fall in November, with new orders down 2.4 percent.
In the U.K., the Bank of England held interest rates at a record low as expected on Thursday. The central bank kept its benchmark base rate at 0.5 percent, where it has been since March 2009, and maintained its asset purchase target at £375 billion ($564 billion).
Read MoreBank of England keeps rates at 0.5%; ECB eyed
In corporate news, Standard Chartered will ax around 4,000 jobs worldwide at its retail banking division and, in addition, is closing its global equities business, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters on Thursday. Shares were higher by 1.9 percent before paring gains to close around 0.9 percent higher.