LONDON, Jan 4 (Reuters) - A rally in European stocks picked up pace on Thursday, following the lead of Asian shares which hit a ten-year peak overnight, as better-than-expected U.S. car sales data and rising oil prices drove auto and energy stocks higher.
Gains spanning cyclical sectors including industrials and banks drove the pan-European STOXX 600 up 0.5 percent while euro zone stocks and blue-chips rose 0.6 percent.
Germany's DAX led the way with a 0.9 percent gain thanks to strong carmakers and industrials, while Britain's FTSE 100 hit a record high.
U.S. car sales data for December beat analysts' expectations, driving European automakers up 1.5 percent, leading sector gainers.
Italian carmaker Fiat Chrysler rose 4 percent to hit a record high, among top STOXX gainers, while Daimler , Volkswagen and BMW led the DAX.
Remy Cointreau was a rare laggard, down 2.9 percent after Investec downgraded the stock, saying Chinese anti-corruption measures could affect consumption of costly status symbol products like cognac.
In the UK small-cap space Debenhams shares sank 19 percent after a profit warning. The stock was set for its worst ever daily fall after the UK department store said price cuts failed to lure shoppers in.
Disappointment at the retailer's performance dented other UK retailers which had rallied strongly on Wednesday after Next's Christmas trading beat.
Overall analysts were becoming marginally less negative on euro zone company earnings as the Q4 results season began.
(Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Kit Rees)