(Reuters) - European shares rose on Thursday, helped by mostly upbeat U.S. economic data, and with banks gaining after taking advantage of cheap finance offered by the European Central Bank.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares rose 1 percent to a provisional close of 980.89 points. However, volume was thin and strategists cautioned against reading too much into the movement.

On Friday, London's FTSE 100 closed up 67 points to 5,457, Germany's DAX closed up 61 poitns to 5,872, and France's CAC 40 finished 41 points higher to 3,072.

Euro zone banks rose 2.1 percent, as markets took a more positive view of 523 banks taking up nearly 490 billion euros in three-year cut-price loans from the ECB on Wednesday.

Some banks can make some money from this carry trade (borrowing at cheap rates and lending at higher rates) - that's why we've seen banks doing well. The fact that so many participated shows that there's no stigma attached to doing so, said Ian King head of international equities at Legal & General, which has 356 billion pounds ($555 billion) under management.

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits hit a 3-1/2 year low last week, bolstering views the economy was gaining momentum, even though third-quarter growth was revised down.