European stock markets mostly rose on Thursday helped by strong Chinese data and as traders looked ahead to the outcomes of the year's first monetary policy meetings from the ECB and Bank of England.
The euro gained against the dollar as traders also reacted to positive bond sales by indebted eurozone nations Spain and Italy.
In late morning deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies climbed 0.18 percent to 6,109.36 points, Frankfurt's DAX 30 index gained 0.23 percent to 7,738.58 points, while the Paris CAC 40 slid 0.10 percent to 3,716.17.
The French central bank on Thursday repeated its estimate that France fell into a mild recession at the end of 2012, putting contraction of the economy at 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter.
In foreign exchange trade meanwhile, the European single currency gained to $1.3099 from $1.3061 late in New York on Wednesday. On the London Bullion Market, gold prices increased to $1,662.50 an ounce from $1,657.75 on Wednesday.
"Market bulls have kept most European equity benchmarks in the green... as a sharp rise in Chinese exports has seemingly overshadowed an underperforming eurozone and a mixed bag from UK retail ahead of a key ECB meeting" due Thursday, said CMC Markets trader Toby Morris.
Asian equities closed higher on Thursday after China released better-than-expected trade data that provide further evidence the world's number two economy has emerged from a drawn-out slumber, dealers said.
In Europe, markets were preparing for official announcements following the latest monthly interest rate meetings of the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of England (BoE).
The ECB is widely expected to keep rates at an all-time low, despite record high unemployment in the recession-wracked eurozone. The BoE is also expected to maintain its record-low borrowing costs.
Tension on Spanish and Italian bonds eased sharply in a further sign that some of the immediate steam is evaporating from the eurozone debt crisis.
"Spain smashed expectations in a bonds auction, selling above its target range while Italy's bills auction pushed 12-month funding costs to hit the lowest level in three years," said Ishaq Siddiqi, strategist at ETX Capital trading group.
"Bond yields for both countries have eased from session highs as such, vaulting the euro to a session high in the process."
Spain's Treasury raised 5.816 billion euros ($7.617 billion) with bonds of two, six and 13 years maturity, with rates of return demanded by investors falling sharply compared to rates in previous sales.
Italy's Treasury meanwhile raised 8.5 billion euros in short-term paper.
On the corporate front, shares in Britain's biggest retailer Tesco grew 2.42 percent to 357.6 pence after the supermarket chain said its sales rose at the fastest pace for three years during the Christmas and New Year trading period.
Tesco, which has struggled in recent times both in its main market Britain and abroad, said sales at its British stores open more than 12 months rose 1.8 percent in the six weeks to January 5 compared with sales in the equivalent period one year earlier.
On the downside, shares in Marks & Spencer slumped 4.34 percent to 354.9 pence after the British food-to-clothing retailer said late on Wednesday that its clothing sales had slumped over the Christmas period.
In Frankfurt on Thursday, BMW stock grew 1.66 percent in value to 73.36 euros after the German top-of-the-range carmaker said it had achieved a sales record in 2012.