Europe's FTSEurofirst 300 index ended slightly higher in thin trading on Friday with continental European markets closed for the May Day holiday and U.K. markets closing slightly lower.

In economic news, the U.S. Commerce Department said factory orders slipped 0.9% for March, reversing some of the previous month's rebound. February saw an increase of 0.7%, revised from an advance of 1.8 percent that was initially reported. This followed a drop of 3.5% in January. Economists had expected March factory orders to drop 0.4%.

The Institute for Supply Management in the U.S. said its index of activity in the sector rose to 40.1 in April from 36.3 in March, with a reading below 50 indicating a contraction in the sector. Economists had been expecting a more modest increase to a reading of 38.4.

Crude for June delivery rose $2.17 to $53.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, as the report showed that deterioration in the American manufacturing sector appeared to be slowing.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of pan-European blue chips closed 0.12% higher at 829.65 points. The U.K.'s FTSE 100 index fell 0.01% to 4,243.22 points.

Mining stocks gained after copper prices jumped. BHP Billiton, the world's biggest miner, rose 0.7%, while Rio Tinto, the third biggest, surged up 2.7% and copper miner Antofagasta climbed 4.8%. India-focused miner Vedanta Resources rallied 5.2%.

Pharmaceuticals stocks edged lower on profit taking. GlaxoSmithKline, Europe's biggest drugmaker, rose 1.7% and AstraZeneca, Britain' second biggest drugmaker, slipped 2.5%.

Travel and leisure stocks continued to suffer, as Swine flu reached 11 countries, governments closed schools, planned for vaccine production and tapped emergency stockpiles of antiviral drugs. Intercontinental Hotels fell 3.3%, while cruise operator Carnival slipped 2.3% and tour operator Thomas Cook declined 1.1%.

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