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Europe shares close flat; FTSE higher on Asos, TSB

Markets open higher as QE takes hold

European equities closed largely flat to lower on Thursday, as investors reacted to earnings and banking news and considered the implications of the European Central Bank's (ECB) newly launched quantitative easing (QE) program.

The pan-European STOXX Europe 600 index ended the day flat. The clear index leader was the U.K.'s FTSE 100, provisionally ending 0.6 percent higher after shares of online clothes retailer Asos and TSB bank soared.

TSB shares closed Thursday 23 percent up as it confirmed that Spanish bank Sabadell had made it a preliminary offer. TBS said the 340 pence per share might—or might not—result in a formal offer for entire company.

Meanwhile, shares of ASOS jumped 13 percent after it reported a 19 percent rise in retail sales in the three months to February 28.

Also in the U.K., retail tycoon Philip Green announced that he has sold his BHS chain to Retail Acquisitions for an undisclosed sum.

In other stock news, shares of Italian insurer Generali closed more than 4 percent lower after it reported a 12.5 percent fall in net profit due to one-off charges.

Central banks weigh

There are signs of uncertainty in the market about diverging central bank policy. Investors must weigh the impact of the ECB's 1 trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) QE program, launched this week, against expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon start hiking interest rates.

Data on Thursday confirmed that deflation remains a risk in euro zone, with consumer prices in France falling again year-on-year in February. German consumer prices data for February showed a 0.1 percent rise in inflation, year-on-year, in line with expectations.

In the U.S., stocks traded higher on Thursday, as the U.S. dollar paused its recent rally and economic data came in mixed.