Europe Markets

European markets close higher, led by tech shares; Atos slumps 12%

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Key Points
  • Euro zone manufacturing activity grew at its fastest pace on record in March, with IHS Markit's final manufacturing PMI coming in at 62.5 compared to February's 57.9.
  • On Wall Street, the S&P 500 crossed the 4,000 threshold for the first time after President Joe Biden introduced his multi-trillion dollar infrastructure proposal.
  • Last week's initial jobless claims in the U.S. came in at a higher-than-expected 719,000, Labor Department figures confirmed.

LONDON — European stocks closed higher on Thursday amid a raft of data releases from the region.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session up 0.6%, with tech stocks climbing 2% to lead gains as almost all sectors and major bourses closed in positive territory.

European investors were digesting data releases from the region Thursday that can offer more clues on the state of health of the European economy.

Euro zone manufacturing activity grew at its fastest pace on record in March, with IHS Markit's final manufacturing PMI coming in at 62.5 compared to February's 57.9.

The bounce was led by Germany, which notched a reading of 66.6 thanks to resurgent demand from the U.S. and China. However, German retail sales in February fell short of economist expectations to rise by 1.2%, a full 9% below the same time last year.

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Meanwhile, new data from China showed the slowing growth of Chinese factory activity in March. The Caixin/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for March came in at 50.6, compared to February's reading of 50.9.

In comparison, China's official manufacturing PMI released Wednesday came in at 51.9, higher than February's reading of 50.6. PMI readings above 50 signify expansion while those below that level represent contraction.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 crossed the 4,000 threshold for the first time after President Joe Biden introduced his administration's multi-trillion dollar infrastructure proposal. The plan includes spending on roads and bridges as well as green energy and water system upgrades.

This marks the second major spending push of Biden's presidency after he signed a $1.9 trillion relief and stimulus bill on March 11. "With the American Rescue Plan, we're meeting immediate emergencies. Now it's time to rebuild," Biden said on Wednesday.

Data in the U.S. was also in focus, with last week's initial jobless claims coming in at a higher-than-expected 719,000, Labor Department figures confirmed. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had penciled in 674,000 first-time unemployment claims.

In terms of individual share price movement, Dutch internet group Prosus climbed over 5% toward the top of the Stoxx 600 after raising its stake in German food delivery firm Delivery Hero.

British rival Deliveroo sank another 2% in its second day of trading. Shares of the company flopped in its debut Wednesday, shedding as much as 30%.

At the bottom of the index, French IT firm Atos plunged more than 12% after an audit found accounting errors at two of its U.S. units.

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- CNBC's Ryan Browne, Jesse Pound and Eustance Huang contributed to this market report.