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Europe markets close higher as euro zone inflation surprises; Carrefour down 13%

Alexandra Gibbs
Europe markets close higher as euro zone inflation surprises; Carrefour down 13%

European markets closed higher on Thursday as investors digested fresh data and geopolitical fears eased.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 (STOXX: .STOXX) ended the day 0.86 percent higher with all sectors bar retail and autos in the black. Wall Street traded higher, too, as concerns over North Korea subsided.

Basic resources (STOXX: .SXPP) and construction were the top performing sectors, up 1.3 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively, on ratings upgrades and better-than-expected data from China. Antofagasta (London Stock Exchange: ANTO-GB) was up 1.9 percent and Rio Tinto (London Stock Exchange: RIO-GB) was 1.8 percent higher after the firms saw their price targets revised upwards by Jefferies. HeidelbergCement (XETRA: HEI-DE) rose 2.4 percent as Citigroup raised it to a "buy" rating.

Travel and leisure also ended the day as one of the top performing sectors, buoyed by airline Lufthansa (XETRA: LHA-DE), which was up 3.5 percent. The company is in talks to buy around a dozen of the insolvent Air Berlin (XETRA: AB1-DE)'s long-haul carriers.

Investment company Exor closed close to the top of the European benchmark, up 4.3 percent, after reporting Wednesday that its profits had more than doubled in the first half of the year.

Meanwhile, at the other end, the retail sector was once again in the red on earnings and data. The French retailer Carrefour (Euronext Paris: CA-FR) dropped 13 percent after warning that its profits could fall in 2017 due to lower sales growth. The stock was at the bottom of the European benchmark. The move also brought shares in rival Casino lower. The stock closed down 2.8 percent.

Metro (XETRA: B4B-DE), the German retail group, also saw its overall third-quarter sales rise by 4.9 percent to 9.3 billion euros. The stock ended the day down 2 percent.

Earnings and Inflation

On the earnings front, French drinks giant Pernod Ricard (Euronext Paris: RI-FR) announced that 2017 full-year revenue was up 3.6 percent on a like-for-like basis to 9.01 billion euros ($10.7 billion). However, investors weren't convinced and the stock closed down 1.9 percent.

Sticking with French companies, Bouygues (Euronext Paris: EN-FR) confirmed its earnings outlook for the year, and saw its sales rise 3 percent to 15.16 billion euros during the first half of 2017. Shares rose 2.4 percent.

Looking at data, inflation figures for the euro zone surprised, coming in at 1.5 percent year-on-year in August - the highest rate seen in four months. However, excluding energy and unprocessed food - the measure taken into account by the European Central Bank - inflation remain unchanged at 1.3 percent.

Meanwhile, data from the German Statistics Office showed retail sales dropped more than expected in July.

Corporate news

In other news, Galeries Lafayette in France unveiled plans to buy the e-business La Redoute. The department store wants to adapt to the digital world at a time when traditional retailers aim to overcome market challenges.

The British firm Jimmy Choo said Thursday its revenues rose 16.5 percent in the first half of the year, profiting from a weaker pound. The shoe brand is in a takeover process by Michael Kors.

Brexit and oil

Thursday marks the final day of the third round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels.

A press conference ending the talks showed continued division between the two sides, with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier claiming that no "decisive progress" had been made .

Meanwhile, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has been in Japan where she has been discussing politics and trade ties with the country.

During her visit, May spoke about her future in politics, telling the BBC that she was "here for the long term," and that her and the U.K. government were not just about delivering on Brexit, but about providing a brighter future for the nation in general.

U.S. politics and North Korea are also the back of investors' minds on Thursday, following the volatility seen in markets in recent trading days. However, market jitters appeared to have subsided after President Donald Trump issued a statement saying that " all options are on the table " when it comes to the U.S.'s future relationship with the Asian nation.

Sticking with the U.S., Hurricane Harvey continues to add uncertainty to market sentiment as investors question what the impact of the natural disaster will be on various sectors, including insurance and oil.

On Thursday, Brent traded at $52.26 per barrel, while U.S. crude hovered around $47.21 as European markets closed.

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