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LONDON (The Deal) -- European stocks maintained their positive momentum on Thursday, with health care stocks and U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer (MAKSY)  among the morning's top gainers.

In London, the FTSE 100 was up 0.33% at 6,182.11, while in Frankfurt the DAX added 0.33% to 9,656, and in Paris the CAC 40 added 0.47% to 4,304.63. 

S&P 500 futures were down 0.30%. 

European markets took some inspiration from Wednesday's Wall Street bounce on the latest dovish signals from the Federal Reserve, with minutes from the Fed's March meeting showing a cautious approach to raising interest rates. 

The European Central Bank may add to the good mood later Thursday when it releases notes from its own March monetary policy gathering, which are due out early afternoon Frankfurt time. 

In London, health care stocks added to Thursday's gains a day after Pfizer (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report  canceled its $160 billion deal for Allergan (AGN) - Get Allergan plc Report , fueling expectations of imminent deal making elsewhere in the sector. 

Allergan is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS portfolio.

AstraZeneca (AZN) - Get Astrazeneca PLC Sponsored ADR Report , a 2014 Pfizer bid target, was up 1.55%. Ireland-domiciled Shire (SHPG) - Get Shire PLC Sponsored ADR Report , which is in the midst of buying Baxalta (BXLT)  for $32 billion and is deemed a possible target for Allergan, added 0.80%. 

Among other health care stocks, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) - Get GlaxoSmithKline plc Sponsored ADR Report  added 0.65% in London, while in Frankfurt Merck KGaA was up 1.49% and Bayer was 0.83% higher. 

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High-street retailer Marks & Spencer climbed 1.36% in London on a better-than-expected fourth-quarter trading statement. Same-store sales of clothing and home goods fell 2.7% in the 13 weeks through March 26, which was below the 3.5% drop predicted in a Bloomberg News analysts' poll. 

But Steve Rowe, who took the reigns as CEO less than a week ago, said more work is needed amid an "unsatisfactory" performance, and that turning around the clothing and home business through an improved offer was a top priority. 

The retailer is due to report full-year results on May 25. 

Among decliners, Worldpay Group (WPYGY)  slipped 2.55% following news that two large private equity shareholders -- Advent International Corp. and Bain Capital LLC -- sold a combined 275 million shares in the payment processing firm equal to a stake of nearly 14%. 

After the sale, the funds will hold a combined 28.2% stake in Worldpay. 

Looking to stocks in other regions, Virgin Australia Holdings added 4.23% in Sydney, after investor Singapore Airlines Ltd. said late Wednesday that it had raised its stake in the carrier from 22.91% to 23.11% by settling equity swaps. 

While Singapore Air received the green light earlier this year from Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board to boost its stake to 25.9%, it has not yet said whether it plans to do so. 

After an initial morning jolt, Singapore Airlines shares ended the day little changed, adding a paltry 0.09%. 

And finally in Seoul, Samsung Electronics finished the day 1.25% lower despite reporting a better-than-expected first-quarter profit. Operating income rose to 6.6 trillion Korean won ($5.7 billion), compared with average market estimates of about 5.5 trillion on, after releasing its Galaxy S7 smart phone model early. 

Among Asia's benchmark indices, the Nikkei rose 0.22% in Tokyo to 15,749.84, while in Kong Kong the Hang Seng rose 0.29% to 20,026.05. 

Later Thursday, the spotlight shifts back to the U.S for the latest weekly jobless claims figures. And after the U.S. trading day ends, Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to speak at a conference in New York along with her three predecessors.