Europe Shares Close at Record Highs on Autos Rally

European stocks closed higher after volatile trade on Friday, boosted by a rally in the auto sector. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 closed provisionally up 0.1 percent at 1,246.79 points, a new 5-year closing peak.

Better-than-expected car registration figures revealed that European car sales were the strongest they have been in 21 months, pushing car manufacturers sharply higher.

(Read More: Europe's Car Market Breaks 18 Month Losing Streak)

German manufacturer Daimler was a top gainer of the DAX, along with Volkswagen and BMW. French carmakers Peugeot and Renault also saw strong gains.


Moller Maersk Shares Gain on Upbeat Earnings

Companies that reported earnings on Friday included Danish shipping company Moller Maersk, that said its container-shipping line returned to profit as freight rates recovered in the first quarter, pushing the stock 1 percent higher.

Chief Executive Nils Smedegaard Andersen told CNBC the company had done well despite the economic crisis, but added that it had no plans to order any ships last year as there was no need for "extra capacity."

(Read More: Moller-Maersk CEO: No Need for New Capacity)

"We're not banking on any hope. The recession in Europe seems to be going on with no diminishing trends, but when I look back at the last five years we've grown our equity from 24 to 39 billion dollars and paid increasing dividends out to shareholders having good returns in a cyclical business like ours, in a down turn," he said.

Meanwhile, online delivery service Ocado shares closed a staggering 36 percent higher after it announced a deal with U.K. supermarket Morrisons.

"This is a major strategic development for Morrisons. The tie-up with Ocado will allow it to springboard its way up the online food chain as the deal gives the grocer a ready-made platform for a successful online business. The next few months will be key in developing an effective marketing strategy, but things are certainly looking bright for Morrisons," said Dan Coen, director at advisory firm Zolfo Cooper, in a research note.

(Read More: UK Supermarket Enters Online Grocery Scrum)