The pan-European Stoxx 600 rose during afternoon trade to close higher by 0.5 percent, with all major bourses and most sectors in positive territory.
Europe's retail sector was the strongest performer Thursday afternoon, rallying to close up nearly 2 percent. Ocado boosted the sector, closing up over 44 percent after the British online supermarket said it had signed an exclusive deal with U.S. grocer Kroger. Ocado's shares were up over 50 percent earlier on in the day. The agreement allows Ocado to use Kroger's technology for grocery deliveries in the world's biggest market.
Europe's utility stocks also did well on Thursday, up over 1.4 percent amid earnings news. French waste and water group Suez reported stronger-than-anticipated first-quarter revenues due to an improvement in the volumes of waste treated in Europe. The Paris-listed stock closed 3.6 percent to the upside, though it had seen stronger trade earlier on in the afternoon.
The oil and gas sector also rose during afternoon trade to close 1.6 percent to the upside, propped up by oil prices that are at multi-year highs. Benchmark Brent crude traded above $80 per barrel on Thursday, marking its highest price since November 2014. Sanctions from the U.S. on major crude exporter Iran, compounding on tighter supply generally, have been pushing up prices.
Travel and leisure stocks moved higher in afternoon trade, closing up just over 1 percent despite bookmakers' concerns over plans to cut the maximum stake on fixed-odds betting terminals in Britain. William Hill, which anticipated total gaming revenue would be hit by up to 45 percent, erased earlier losses and rallied in afternoon trade, ending the day up 4.2 percent.
Altice, the Dutch telecoms multinational, was near the top of the European benchmark. The firm closed 12.4 percent higher. This followed news that SFR, Altice's French division, had shown signs of recovery in the first three months of this year, adding broadband customers for the first time since 2014. Although the revenue of its French arm has continued to fall, this has been recorded at a slower pace than the previous quarter.
Meanwhile, shipping group Moller-Maersk missed first-quarter core profit expectations. The Danish conglomerate cited high oil prices, geopolitical risks and trade tensions as ongoing challenges to the group's business. Its shares closed off 8.9 percent, placing it second from bottom on the Stoxx 600.
U.S. stocks open lower
After a negative open U.S. stocks rose, led by strong gains in energy shares. But those gains were capped by declines in Walmart and Cisco Systems as well as interest rates trading at multiyear highs.