In US economic news, monthly chain store sales rose 3.7 per cent in December after increasing by 2.1 per cent in November. US jobless claims fell by 15,000 to 330,000 in the past week.
The European Central Bank left its main interest rate unchanged at a record low of 0.25 per cent on Thursday. ECB President Mario Draghi was cautious about the European economic recovery and hinted that there may be down revisions in inflation forecasts. However he did say “the risks surrounding the economic outlook for the euro area continue to be on the downside" and that eurozone economic activity should benefit from a "gradual strengthening of demand for exports".