European equities ended higher on Thursday with investors cheering a peace deal agreed between Ukraine and Russia following an escalation of violence in the region.
Ukraine peace deal
The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index rallied to close 0.6 percent higher after Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed that he had agreed a peace deal with Ukraine. The leaders of France and Germany helped broker the deal. Speaking on Russian TV, Putin said the agreement would mean the removal of heavy weapons and a full ceasefire would be in place from midnight on February 15.
Stocks traded higher after the news, with Russia's MICEX climbing 2 percent shortly after the announcement on Thursday morning. The German DAX - which is exposed to the Russian market - ended up 1.5 percent higher.
Violence in east Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian military has worsened in recent weeks making a peace deal critical.
Earnings boost sentiment
A slew of corporate earnings also helped to boost sentiment in the region on Thursday. Auto stocks were the major outperformer with shares of Renault rising as much as 11 percent. The carmaker reported a tripling of full-year profit last year and highlighted more improvement in the year ahead.
Meanwhile, Swiss bank Credit Suisse said fourth-quarter net profit was 921 million Swiss francs ($991.07 million), far exceeding expectations of 663 million francs in a Reuters poll of analysts. Shares soared almost as much 10 percent.
Finnish Steel manufacturer Outokumpu Oyj also saw a bounce, shot over 14 percent higher, after reporting a swing to a fourth-quarter profit of 45 million euros ($50.91 million).
U.S. stocks traded higher on Thursday as investors were encouraged by a cease-fire agreement between Russia and Ukraine, shaking off lack of resolution in Greece and weaker-than-expected U.S. data.
Greece in focus
Aside from earnings, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis's meeting with other euro zone finance ministers did not yield a deal Wednesday. The finance ministers were unable to even agree on a joint statement on the next steps to take.
"We discussed the possibility of an extension. For some that is clear that is the preferred option but we haven't come to that conclusion as yet. We will need a little more time," Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem told reporters in Brussels.
Talks will resume Monday, but time is running out as Greece's current bailout program ends on February 28.
Varoufakis, who was expected to announce an overhaul of the country's current bailout program, played down the outcome. Talks were "very good," he told reporters, adding that a "healing deal" on Greece's finances could be reached on Monday, according to Reuters. Greek stocks were up 3 percent on Thursday.
In other news, the Bank of England suggested on Thursday that there won't be a rate hike in the U.K. this year. Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney pushed back expectations to the start of 2016, who also said that sharp falls in food and energy prices were largely to blame for weak inflation.
SocGen shares fall
In other stocks news, French bank Societe Generale reported fourth-quarter net profit of 511 million euros, up from 191 million a year earlier. The bank's Chief Executive Frederic Oudea called for a "diplomatic solution" to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Shares in the French lender fell 1.3 percent in the morning session after highlighting a difficult trading environment in Russia. Shares erased losses to close 1.6 percent higher with news of the cease-fire.
Meanwhile, Publicis shares rose over 3 percent after the advertising group reported fourth-quarter earnings that managed to beat market expectations.
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