The European markets rose for the sixth day on Thursday, as gains in automotive and mining stocks overshadowed losses in retailers.

In economic news, the U.S. Labor Department said in its report that initial jobless claims rose to 652,000 for the week ended March 21st, compared to the previous week's level of 644,000. Analysts had expected the figure to come in at a level of 650,000.

The U.S. Commerce Department's final report on fourth quarter gross domestic product showed that the country's GDP fell by a revised 6.3% in the fourth quarter compared to the preliminary estimate of a 6.2% decrease. Economists had been expecting GDP to be revised to show a somewhat steeper 6.6% percent contraction.

The Office for National Statistics said U.K. retail sales volume recorded an annual increase of 0.4% in February, which was the weakest growth since September 1995. Annual growth stood much below 2.5% rise expected by economists.

Crude for May delivery rose $1.03 to $53.80 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, by the time the European markets closed, as investors bet there would be a new run on crude stocks.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 0.19% higher at 745.33 points, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index rose 0.31% to 1,843.71 points.

Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index rose 0.64% to 3,925.20 and Germany's DAX index surged up 0.85% to 4,259.37, while France's CAC 40 index fell 0.05% to 2,892.07.

Volkswagen, Europe's biggest carmaker, climbed 7.6% after part-owner Porsche said yesterday it had reached agreement with 15 banks, including new lenders, to help refinance a loan coming due this month. Porsche shares surged up 2.8%.

Shares of some other automakers also rose. Peugeot, France's biggest carmaker, gained 2.1% and Renault, the second biggest, added 3.8%.

Mining stocks gained after copper prices advanced. BHP Billiton, the world's biggest miner, surged up 3.6%, while Anglo American, the second biggest, rose 2.7% and Rio Tinto, the third biggest, climbed 7.4%. Copper miner Antofagasta gained 2.2%.

Man Group, the world's largest publicly traded hedge-fund manager, surged up 5.5% after the company said it plans to double its managed- account business to boost fee income after assets under management plunged.

On the other hand, Hennes & Mauritz, Europe's second biggest clothing retailer, fell 3.5% after the company reported its first quarterly profit drop in more than 5 years.

Kingfisher, Europe's biggest home improvement retailer, slipped 2.3% after the company said it will close more than a third of stores in China as the recession deepens.

U.K. fashion retailer Next declined 1.6% after the company reported a decline in its fiscal 2009 profit and said it expects negative like-for-like sales in fiscal 2010.

ThyssenKrupp, Germany's biggest steelmaker, slipped 4.1% after UBS downgraded the stock to neutral from buy and lowered its share-price estimate 40 percent to 15 euros.

For comments and feedback: contact editorial@rttnews.com