Europe ends sharply higher; Swiss stocks slide

European equities rallied after a volatile session of trade on Thursday to close sharply higher, following action from the Swiss National Bank. The pan-European Euro Stoxx 600 Index (^STOXX) ended around 2.5 percent higher after switching between gains and losses for much of the session. This came as the Swiss National bank decided to abandoned its foreign currency cap against the euro. French (Euronext Paris: .FCHI) and German (^GDAXI) stocks both closed over 2 percent higher after Brent crude futures, which fell below $ 46 a barrel on Wednesday touched $ 50 Thursday afternoon, before trading around $ 48 per barrel as U.S. markets opened. U.S. crude rallied to trade over $ 49 per barrel. Swiss stocks (Swiss Exchange: .SSMI) fell by more than 10 percent at one point on the news, and the Swiss franc (Exchange:CHF=) gained up to 30 percent against the euro.

Swiss companies Richemont (Swiss Exchange: CFR-CH), Swatch (Swiss Exchange: UHR-CH), Actelion Holdings (Swiss Exchange: ATLN-CH) and Credit Suisse all posted major losses. U.S. stocks (^GSPC) opened higher on Thursday, rebounding after a four-day losing stretch, after crude’s climb overrode U.S. economic reports, disappointing quarterly results from large banks and an unexpected move by the SNB.

A measure of manufacturing in the new York region climbed to 9.95, above estimates. Other reports had wholesale prices falling 0.3 percent in December, and a larger-than-expected number filing for jobless benefits last week, up by 19,000 to 316,000.

“(Swiss) companies will find that their exports suddenly become much more expensive, with the resultant hit to margins that will entail, while broader European stocks should feel the benefit as the euro weakens,” Michael Hewson, the chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said in a note. “Switzerland suddenly got a whole lot more expensive and for chocolate lovers Nestle and/or Lindt chocolate just got a whole lot more expensive.” Energy majors like BP (London Stock Exchange: BP.-GB),Shell (London Stock Exchange: RDSA-GB) and Total (Euronext Paris: FP-FR) largely traded higher. The basic resources (STOXX:.SXPP) sector also rose, after posting heavy losses in the previous trading session.

In other news, investors will be watching the technology space, after Reuters reported that Samsung (Korea Stock Exchange: 83-KR) had recently approached BlackBerry (Toronto Stock Exchange: BB-CA) to buy the company for as much as $ 7.5 billion Meanwhile in the U.K., British finance secretary George Osborne said he would need to decide quickly about selling the government’s stake in the bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland after May’s national election, Reuters reported Wednesday. RBS (London Stock Exchange: RBS-GB) shares were 1.5 percent higher on Thursday. On the data front, a flash German growth figure showed the economy expanded by 0.25 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014, compared with the previous quarter. In other stocks news, shares of U.K. housebuilder Bovis Homes (London Stock Exchange: BVS-GB) fell 1.2 percent at the open after it announced sales in 2015 could slow.

AB Foods (London Stock Exchange: ABF-GB) saw its shares rise 3 percent with its U.K. clothing unit, Primark, seeing strong sales over the Christmas period. Meanwhile, shares of German personal care company Beiersdorf (XETRA:BEI-DE) rose after it confirmed its 2014 profit target and highlighted a confident outlook for 2015. Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld

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