On Wall Street, stocks rose as shares of Apple led tech shares higher. J.P. Morgan initiated the stock with an overweight rating, setting its price target at $272 — 23 percent higher than the stock's last closing price.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) on Wednesday hiked its benchmark interest rate by a quarter point, and went on to add that one more hike was projected in 2018 — with three more were penciled in for 2019. Markets came under pressure that day, when Chair Jerome Powell told reporters that he didn't see inflation surprising to the upside — a comment that triggered bond yields to drop.
Tensions between the U.S. and major economies continue to be in focus for global traders. In the latest surrounding the tit-for-tat trade war with China, President Donald Trump accused China of intending to interfere with the upcoming U.S. congressional elections this November. He stated that the Asian nation didn't want the Republican Party to perform well, due to his recent war-of-words with China on trade.
Trump however did not provide any evidence towards this allegation; and this claim prompted an immediate rejection from Beijing, who said that they didn't intrude on any country's domestic matters.
Sticking with trade, Trump also took aim at Canada, criticizing the U.S. neighbour for its slow pace of discussions concerning the overhaul of NAFTA. The U.S. president went onto threaten Canada with levies, and stated that he had recently vetoed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's invitation for a one-on-one meeting — a claim that prompted a spokesman of Trudeau's government to state that no such meeting had been requested.
Looking closer to home, investors are tracking news coming out of Italy, amid concerns surrounding the country's budget and deficit targets for next year and infighting in the government.
At the European closing bell the yield on 10-year Italian debt was at 2.89 per cent, having risen to 2.99 per cent earlier in the day, its highest level in two weeks.
Media reports have suggested that the populist parties in charge in Italy, are pressing the finance minister to resign, if he doesn't deliver the pledges they made in the campaign. A spokesperson for the finance minister told CNBC the rumours are "fake news" and Giovanni Tria is focused on the budget numbers.
The euro extended losses seen earlier in the session, falling 0.62 percent versus the dollar to $1.1666 amid concerns over Italy. There are also concerns the coalition government's 2019 budget could be delayed. However, the government said in a statement Thursday it will meet at 6 p.m. GMT (2 p.m. ET) to set its economic goals for the next three years.
In Brexit news, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond tweeted on Wednesday that the autumn budget statement would be presented earlier than usual, on October 29, ahead of a vital Brexit summit scheduled in November. Britain's FTSE 100 was almost half a percent higher, boosted by sterling weakness as traders monitored the latest headlines around Brexit.