Euro Stocks End Higher, Energy Gains

European equities eked out gains for the fourth session in a row on Thursday in thin volume as energy shares took pole position on higher oil prices.

BP, Total, Royal Dutch Shell and Statoil Hydro all gained between 0.7 and 2.4 percent as U.S. crude oil futures jumped 1.3 percent to above $97 per barrel, boosted by a bigger-than-expected fall in inventories.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index edged up 0.1 percent to a provisional 1,509.5 after a two-day Christmas break. Technology shares fell. The FTSEurofirst index is up 1.8 percent so far this year versus a 16 percent jump last year.

Volume was paltry at about 1.3 billion shares compared with average daily volume of about 2.5 billion shares.

"We are later in the (equity market) cycle after a long period of safe returns," David Kiddie, chief investment officer for equities at ABN Amro Asset Management said in a note.

"So there is a case for investing in larger, well-managed companies, in companies keen on self-improvement, in sectors such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals and consumer staples."

U.S. equities were lower, hit by weaker-than-expected durable goods data and on news that Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in an attack.