European stocks ended higher on Thursday amid positive investor sentiment after preliminary research showed the omicron variant of COVID-19 was less likely to result in hospitalizations in comparison with the earlier variants.
Optimism also increased after the US Food and Drug Administration approved COVID-19 pills made by Pfizer (PFE) and Merck & Co. (MRK) for emergency use in at-risk patients.
Stoxx Europe 600 and Germany's DAX were both up 1%, and France's CAC rose 0.8%. The FTSE 100 in the UK closed up 0.4%, and the Swiss Market Index added 0.6%.
Spain's final gross domestic product rose 2.6% in the third quarter, following a 1.2% increase in the second quarter, the National Statistics Institute said. On an annual basis, the final GDP grew 3.4% in the third quarter after a 17.7% surge in the second quarter.
Italy's consumer confidence index edged up to 117.7 in December from 117.5 in November, the country's statistical office Istat said. The latest reading beat an estimate of 116.2.
Germany's import prices grew by 24.7%, while export prices rose by 9.9% in November on an annual basis, the German Federal Statistical Office said. The latest import figure surpassed the estimated 22.3% increase.
The UK's monthly business growth indicator dropped 11 points to 21 in the quarter to December, its lowest level since the quarter to April, the Confederation of British Industry said. The slowdown was caused by the ongoing labor and materials shortages, an increase in costs, and new COVID-19-related restrictions to curb the spread of the omicron variant, Reuters reported.
On the corporate front, Holcim (HOLN.SW, HOLN.PA) was up 2% after it agreed to purchase US residential roofing company Malarkey Roofing Products for $1.35 billion. The company expects annual synergies of $40 million on a run-rate basis by year three and the acquisition to be EPS accretive from the first year.