- July's flash PMI readings on Friday showed euro zone business activity growing at its fastest pace in more than two decades
- Earnings season continued to gather steam in Europe, with Thales, Signify and Lonza among those reporting second-quarter results.
LONDON — European stocks closed higher on Friday, as investors digested economic data and corporate earnings from across the continent.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 finished 1.1% higher, with autos jumping 2.6% to lead gains as almost all sectors and major bourses closed in positive territory.
July's flash PMI (purchasing managers' index) readings on Friday showed euro zone business activity growing at its fastest pace in more than two decades, as an easing of social restrictions and expansion of vaccination programs unleashed pent-up demand.
U.K. retail sales grew 0.5% in June after a surprise pullback in May, according to official figures published Friday. However, the country's economic recovery ran into a wall in July as the number of people instructed to isolate by the government's test-and-trace app soared due to rising infections. The IHS Markit/CIPS flash PMI dropped to 57.7 in July from 62.2 in June.
Stateside, the major averages rose with Wall Street seeking its fourth consecutive day of gains as markets continued to rebound from a sharp sell-off on Monday.
Back in Europe, the European Central Bank held its monetary policy steady Thursday following a meeting of the Governing Council. The bank vowed a "persistently accommodative" stance in light of its new inflation target.
There was division among members over whether to alter the central bank's forward guidance, but hawkish National Bank of Belgium Governor Pierre Wunsch told CNBC on Friday that his dissent should not be "dramatized."
Earnings driving share price action
In terms of individual share price movement, French car parts maker Valeo climbed 6% after beating second-quarter earnings expectations and confirming its outlook. Swedish builder Skanska also jumped 7.4% after beating profit expectations.
British telecoms firm Vodafone rose 2.4% after reporting a better-than-expected rise in first-quarter service revenue.
At the bottom of the European blue chip index, French cookware manufacturer Groupe SEB fell 7.6% after flagging cost headwinds. Dutch lighting company Signify dropped 5% despite reporting a 32% jump in second-quarter profit, as it continued to grapple with supply chain issues.
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- CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this report.