European stock markets were buoyed Thursday by a raft of solid corporate earnings reports and the outcome of the final televised debate between the two French presidential candidates.

Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen went head to head in the final debate Wednesday night while polls released afterward showed the market's preferred candidate, Macron, as having come off more convincing in the eyes of the electorate.

Accordingly, the CAC 40 gained 1.24% in Paris, to close at 5,366, while the DAX index added 0.80% in Frankfurt before coming to a rest at 12,632.

U.K. benchmarks were the weak link in Europe Thursday with the FTSE 100 up a mere 0.21% at 7,250 while the FTSE 250 index was down 0.05% at 19,674, with both commodity heavy indices having been a victim of continued weakness in materials prices.

Stocks in Southern Europe were particularly strong, with the FTSE MIB index in Milan up more than 2% on the session, while the IBEX rose nearly 1.5% in Madrid.

Banks drove gains in Spanish stocks, with CAIXA (CIXPF) and Bankia (BNKXF) both up more than 3% each at the top of the IBEX.

In Italy, Leonardo undefined and Ferrari (RACE) - Get Ferrari NV Reporttopped the MIB index with gains of more than 5% each.

Leonardo benefited from a decision by court officials have ordered a retrial of two former executives who were convicted in an Indian bribery scandal, which cost the company dearly in terms of reputation, in 2014. Ferrari beat estimates for first quarter sales and earnings.

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In London the perennial turnaround story, and insurance giant, RSA (RSAIF) saw its shares rise close to the top of the FTSE 100 after it reported revenues having risen 14% in the recent quarter while operating profit was also ahead of expectations. The shares climbed more than 2% Thursday.

HSBC (HSBC) - Get HSBC Holdings PLC Sponsored ADR Report reported adjusted profit before tax of $5.9 billion for the first quarter, up 12% on the year, and significantly ahead of the Factset consensus for a print of $4.6 billion.

The bank beat analyst estimates for regulatory capital during the period and even after accounting for a $900 million charge, which that took reported pretax income down to $5 billion, the bank's results were still ahead of analyst forecasts.

Investment banking, corporate banking as well as retail and wealth all posted strong results for the quarter. HSBC shares were up by around 2.5% in London at the close.

Bank stocks were a key contributor to strength across Europe during the session, with Commerzbank (CRZBY) leading the DAX higher on a 2.7% return.

BMW (BMWYY) stock rose during morning trading Thursday, amid a broad rebound in European automotive stocks, aided by a better than expected bottom line in the first-quarter. Although the shares were broadly flat, up 0.10%, at the close in Frankfurt.

Also in Frankfurt, Infineon Technologies (IFNNY) stock slipped Thursday after the Apple (AAP) - Get Advance Auto Parts, Inc. Report supplier posted poorer than expected earnings for its second fiscal quarter.

It declared group sales of €1.76 billion ($1.92 billion) which were broadly in line with the Factset consensus. However, operating income came in at €229 million, up 24.4%, but below analyst forecasts for a print of €264 million.

In Paris, environmental services contractor Veolia (VEOEY) rose to the top of the CAC 40 index, with a near 7% gain, after it reported better than expected growth in revenues and earnings for the recent quarter and said that its cost reduction program is on track.

French banks Credit Agricole (CRARY) and Societe Generale (SCGLY) also posted noteworthy gains, of more than 1% and 0.5% respectively, during the session.