The European markets rose on Thursday, as better-than-expected results from JPMorgan and upbeat comments from Nokia raised hopes that the worst of the economic crisis is over.

The benchmarks extended their gains after a report showed that initial jobless claims in the U.S. unexpectedly fell last week. The U.S. Labor Department said that initial jobless claims fell to 610,000 for the week ended April 11th, down 53,000 from the previous week's revised figure.

In another report, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said its index of activity in the mid-Atlantic region's manufacturing sector rose to a negative 24.4 in April from a negative 35.0 in March, with a negative reading indicating a contraction in the sector. Economists had expected a more modest increase to a negative 32.0.

Crude for May delivery rose $0.43 to $49.68 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, by the time the European markets closed, as traders bet the global economy would turn around this year.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 1.75% higher at 802.02 points, while the narrower DJ Stoxx 50 index rose 1.78% to 1,972.15 points.

Around Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index climbed 2.13% to 4,052.98, while France's CAC 40 index surged up 1.76% to 3,038.18 and Germany's DAX index rose 1.31% to 4,609.46.

Banking stocks rallied after JPMorgan reported first quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates. UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, climbed 5.4%, while Credit Suisse, the second largest, surged up 7.9% and Deutsche Bank, Germany's biggest lender, rose 6.1%. Barclays, Britain's second largest bank, gained 7.7%.

Dexia, which received government funds last year to avert a collapse, jumped 16% after the bank's largest shareholder, Caisse des Depots et Consignations, said it's optimistic about the company's recovery plan.

Nokia, the world's biggest mobile phone maker, climbed 9.4% after the company said demand was becoming more predictable in the second quarter, although its first-quarter earnings came in slightly below market expectations.

Swiss drugmaker Roche rose 1.8% after the company posted a 7% rise in first quarter sales, led by cancer drug Avastin, and sounded a confident note for the full year.

Heavily weighted oil stocks gained after crude oil prices rose. BP, Europe's biggest oil company, climbed 3% and Royal/Dutch Shell, the second biggest, surged up 2.4%.

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