European stock markets ended higher Thursday. London's Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 index gained 31.9 points, or 0.7%, to 4,571.8. Strong mortgage demand, showing a robust housing sector, is putting more pressure on the Bank of England to raise rates at its May 6 meeting.
In Paris, the CAC 40 index edged up 42.4 points, or 1.13%, to 3,785.55, as Aventis climbs on news that Switzerland's Novartis AG has agreed to begin takeover negotiations. Aventis is battling a hostile bid from Sanofi. Meanwhile, French March consumer spending fell more than expected, down 1.4% vs. expectations of a fall of only 0.2%.
Germany's DAX index was up 33 points, or 0.82%, to 4,059.15, watching the U.S. markets for direction in an otherwise quiet day.
Asian markets finished mixed on Thursday. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index added 35.8 points, or 0.3%, to close at 11,980.10, backed by auto stocks such as Toyota Motor (up 3%) and Nissan Motor (up 2%), and tech names. Overall gains were limited, as banks and real estate names fell.