(Alliance News) - Stock prices in Europe closed higher on Thursday, on the back of minutes from the latest European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve meetings.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 21.98 points, 0.3%, at 7,684.49. The FTSE 250 ended up 144.53 points, 0.8%, at 19,263.50, and the AIM All-Share closed down 0.06 of a point at 749.96.

The Cboe UK 100 ended up 0.3% at 769.77, the Cboe UK 250 closed up 0.9% at 16,675.94, and the Cboe Small Companies ended up 0.1% at 14,482.37.

In European equities on Thursday, the CAC 40 in Paris ended up 1.3%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended up 1.5%.

There were also minutes from the European Central Bank to digest on Thursday.

ECB policymakers deemed last month as too soon to discuss a cut to eurozone interest rates, meeting minutes showed.

Minutes showed a "broad consensus among members" that it is too premature to talk about rate cuts.

Analysts at ING said: "The European Central Bank is not really known as a central bank that makes swift shifts in its policy decisions. The minutes of the ECB’s January meeting nicely illustrate the currently ongoing shift in the ECB’s inflation assessment, but the very cautious and gradual shift suggests that rate cuts in Spring are highly unlikely.

"Instead, the ECB will want to wait until first quarter data confirms receding inflationary pressure, a modest economic recovery and no acceleration of wage growth to slightly reduce the current monetary policy restrictiveness."

On Wednesday evening, minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting suggested that the US central bank is in no rush to cut rates.

"Most participants noted the risks of moving too quickly to ease the stance of policy and emphasised the importance of carefully assessing incoming data in judging whether inflation is moving down sustainably to 2%," the minutes stated.

At January's meeting, the FOMC unanimously voted to leave interest rates unchanged for the fourth meeting in a row. The key rate is targeted in a range between 5.25% and 5.50%, the highest in nearly 23 years.

Stocks in New York were higher at the London equities close, with the DJIA up 0.7%, the S&P 500 index up 1.7%, and the Nasdaq Composite up 2.4%.

In New York, Nvidia shares surged 15% on Thursday.

Investors sighed a breath of relief after Nvidia scored an earnings beat. The hotly-anticipated figures from a company at the heart of an artificial intelligence revolution could have threatened jitters in markets if they fell short of lofty expectations.

The Santa Clara, California-based computer chip manufacturer said revenue for the fourth quarter to January 28 rose 22% quarter-on-quarter to a "record" USD22.10 billion, more than triple USD6.05 billion in the final quarter of the previous year. Net income rocketed to USD12.23 billion from USD1.41 billion.

“Crisis has been averted after Nvidia smashed expectations with its latest results. Markets were braced for potential disappointment given how its shares were weak in the run-up to the numbers, but a large beat on both earnings and sales has put a new rocket under the stock," said AJ Bell's Russ Mould.

Back in London, in the FTSE 100, Beazley rose 8.9%.

The insurer lifted annual guidance and said shareholders could net a USD300 million "additional" return.

The company now expects an undiscounted combined ratio in the "mid-70s" for 2023, an improvement on the previous "low-80s" guidance. A combined ratio below 100% means a profit on underwriting, so the lower the better.

Rolls-Royce jumped 9.3%.

Rolls-Royce reported statutory revenue from continuing operations of GBP16.49 billion, up 22% from GBP13.52 billion in 2022.

It swung to a pretax profit of GBP2.43 billion from a loss of GBP1.50 billion. On an underlying basis, pretax profit jumped to GBP1.26 billion from GBP206 million.

"Our transformation has delivered a record performance in 2023, driven by commercial optimisation, cost efficiencies and progress on our strategic initiatives. This step-change has been achieved across all our divisions, despite a volatile environment with geopolitical uncertainty, supply chain challenges and inflationary pressures," Chief Executive Tufan Erginbilgic said.

Installed as CEO at the start of last year, Erginbilgic made waves just days into his stint as CEO after he described the firm as a "burning platform".

WPP lost 6.4%, however.

Pretax profit slumped by 70% to GBP346 million in 2023 from GBP1.16 billion the year prior. Revenue was more resilient, rising 3.2% on a comparable basis to GBP14.85 billion from GBP14.43 billion.

CEO Mark Read said "2023 was more challenging than we expected due to cuts in spending by technology clients". However, he added that he was "confident" WPP can "deliver accelerated and increasingly profitable growth over the medium term".

In the FTSE 250, Indivior jumped 22%.

In the year to December 31, the pharmaceutical company delivered USD1.09 billion in revenue, up 21% from USD901 million in 2022. Indivior reported a nominal pretax profit of USD1 million in 2023, swinging from a loss of USD95 million in 2022.

Indivior said it is "initiating shareholder consultations to potentially transition to a primary listing in the US" this year. It would maintain a secondary listing in the UK.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2641 at the London equities close Thursday, lower compared to USD1.2644 at the close on Wednesday.

The euro stood at USD1.0817 at the European equities close Thursday, higher against USD1.0812 at the same time on Wednesday. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY150.53, up compared to JPY150.25 late Wednesday.

Brent oil was quoted at USD83.33 a barrel at the London equities close Thursday, up from USD82.84 late Wednesday. Gold was quoted at USD2,022.91 an ounce at the London equities close Thursday, lower against USD2,024.88 at the close on Wednesday.

In Friday's UK corporate calendar, there are full-year results from Irish Residential Properties REIT and Standard Chartered. There are also half-year results from City of London Investment.

The economic calendar for Friday has the UK Gfk confidence survey overnight, as well as China's house price index. Later on Friday, there is Germany's gross domestic product reading.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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