European shares finished up over one percent after the release of data showing new claims for unemployment benefit in the US fell to a 10-month low last week and business productivity in the third quarter there grew at the fastest pace in six years.
Shares were also supported by the Bank of England keeping UK interest rates on hold at 0.5 percent. The British central bank also announced plans to expand its quantitative easing programme by 28 billion euros to 223 billion euros.
Sterling shot up around a cent against the dollar and government bonds tumbled as many investors had expected a bigger expansion of the eight-month-old programme to buy assets – mostly UK government bonds – with newly-created money.
Retailers were among the top gainers with Ahold, Carrefour, Tesco, Morrison and Sainsbury all up.
Belgian supermarket group Delhaize soared after it raised its annual operating profit forecast and said it can cope with tough trading conditions in its main US market where it runs the Food Lion chain.