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European Markets Close Mostly Higher

European stocks ended mostly higher on Thursday, although buying interest remained subdued ahead of the long weekend. Investors shrugged off data showing a slowdown in eurozone private sector growth and focused on earnings instead.

Rising optimism about U.S.-China trade deal and encouraging U.S. retail sales data and a drop in U.S. jobless claims helped keep the mood positive.

The pan European Stoxx 600 ended up 0.22%. Among the major markets in Europe, Germany and France ended higher with their benchmarks gaining 0.57% and 0.31%, respectively. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 edged down by 0.15%, while Switzerland's SMI shed 0.26%.

Among other markets in Europe, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden closed higher.

Italy, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey ended weak.

Shares of consmer goods giant Unilever climbed up 3% after the company reported stronger than expected 3.1% sales growth in the first quarter.

Mediclinic International and Intu Properties gained 4% and 3.75%, respectively. Among other gainers in the U.K. market, CRH, Experian, ITV, Burberry Group, Freznilo, WPP and Ashtead Group moved up 1 to 3%. Bunzi gained 1.6%, rebounding after posting a sharp loss in the previous session.

Shares of multi-national Schneider Electric Company gained about 2.7% after revenue surged 9% in the first quarter.

Valeo, Publicis Groupe, Legrand, Credit Agricole, BNP Paribas, Danone and Peugeot were the other notable gainers in France.

In Germany, Daimler, Lufthansa, Vonovia, Deutsche Post, Adidas and SAP gained significant ground, while Wirecard, Fresenius and Merck declined.

In economic news, Eurozone private sector expanded at the slowest pace for the second successive month in April as manufacturing contracted and service sector growth slowed, preliminary data from the IHS Markit survey showed.

The Eurozone Composite Purchasing Managers' Index fell to a three-month low of 51.3 from 51.6 in March.

Employment growth rose slightly but remained at the lowest since 2016.

Input cost inflation across the euro area accelerated for the first time in seven months from March's two-and-a-half year low, the survey reported.

Business expectation declined for a second successive month to the lowest since January.

The manufacturing PMI rose to a two-month high of 47.8 from 47.5 in March and the services PMI hit a three-month low of 52.5 from 53.3 in March.

In Germany, Composite Purchasing Managers' Index rose to a two-month high of 52.1 from 51.4 in March.

The manufacturing PMI rose to a two-month high of 44.5 from 44.1 in March and the services PMI hit a seven-month low of 55.6 from 55.4 in March.

The French Composite Purchasing Managers' Index rose to a two-month high of 50.0 from 48.9 in March. While the manufacturing PMI fell to a seven year low of 49.6 from 49.7 in March, the services PMI rose to a five-month low of 50.5 from 49.1 in March.

In the U.K., retail sales grew at a faster rate than expected in March, data from the Office for National Statistics showed. Retail sales grew 1.1% month-on-month in March, after a 0.6% rise in February.

In Switzerland, exports slowed in March, rising 0.1%, after rising 1.5% in the previous month. Imports fell further, dropping a real 3.2%, following a 3% fall in the previous month.

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