European stock markets climbed Thursday, despite losses elsewhere, as investors focused on plans to ease some coronavirus lockdown restrictions, while the dollar rose.

Oil prices rose modestly, one day after hitting a new 18-year low as traders believe that a producers' deal to slash output is not large enough to offset a crash in demand caused by coronavirus fallout.

"Investors are shrugging off the pessimism and (are) willing to focus on more positive things," said AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam.

In afternoon eurozone deals, Paris stocks advanced 0.7 percent and Frankfurt jumped one percent after German Chancellor Angela Merkel late Wednesday unveiled first steps in undoing coronavirus restrictions that plunged the eurozone's biggest economy into recession.

"Markets in Europe appear to be stabilising a touch on some limited relaxation of lockdown restrictions across the region," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewon.

"Germany has become the latest European country to say it would be loosening some measures on its lockdown over the coming weeks, which is clearly helping European sentiment for now.

"Reports that the UK has seen a peak in its infection rates is also helping," he added.

London stocks gained just 0.3 percent even as a survey showed plunging retail sales in March as the deadly virus outbreak kept British shoppers away from traditional stores.

Total retail sales sank 4.3 perent in March from a year earlier, the British Retail Consortium said.

"The crisis continues; the retail industry is at the epicentre and the tremors will be felt for a long while yet," said BRC chief Helen Dickinson.

On the downside, Asian markets fell following overnight woes on Wall Street as more negative US economic data fuelled worries about the full impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

There had already been a spate of grim economic forecasts this week, with the IMF warning of the worst global downturn in a century, and poor US economic figures Wednesday further spooked investors.

The latest numbers from the United States, the world's biggest economy, highlighted the scale of the damage unleashed by lockdowns and social distancing measures imposed to stop the spread of the virus.

US retail sales plunged in March while industrial production in the same month suffered its steepest drop since 1946, data showed.

Other reports pointed to weak homebuilder sentiment and manufacturing conditions, while a US Federal Reserve report said economic activity "contracted sharply".

President Donald Trump has said that he will on Thursday announce the first plans for lifting lockdowns in the US -- the worst-hit country with the most virus deaths and infections.

Coronavirus-linked lockdowns and movement curbs have hammered the global economy
Coronavirus-linked lockdowns and movement curbs have hammered the global economy AFP / Daniel CASTELLANO

The World Health Organization has warned, however, that lifting restrictions too early could have devastating consequences, with fears of a possible second wave of infections.

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.3 percent at 5,614.23 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: UP 1.0 percent at 10,380.43

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.7 percent at 4,382.94

Milan - FTSE MIB: UP 1.2 percent at 16,927.99

Madrid - IBEX 35: UP 0.2 percent at 6,851.30

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.0 percent at 2,834.80

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.3 percent at 19,290.20 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.6 percent at 24,006.45 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 2,819.94 (close)

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.9 percent at 23,504.35 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: UP 1.8 percent at $28.19 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.7 percent at $20.01

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0887 from $1.0910 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.70 yen from 107.46

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2492 from $1.2518