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Europe shares close higher on US GDP; FTSE falls

European equities closed higher on Thursday after data from the U.S. showed the economy expanding in the fourth quarter.

However, London's edged lower, weighed down by concerns about the effect a further reduction of U.S. stimulus could have on emerging markets.

Fed tapers more, China weighs

The pan-European FTSEurofirst300 provisionally closed higher by 0.2 percent — after seeing losses in four out of the last five sessions. The index is still on course to log a decline this month, its first monthly loss since August.

However, shares received a boost on Thursday after the U.S. Commerce Department reported the U.S. economy expanded 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter on an annualized basis.

U.S. investors also embraced better-than-expected quarterly profits from social-networking company Facebook.

Beyond the GDP data, the Labor Department reported weekly jobless claims rose 19,000 to 348,000 last week, versus an 328,000 estimate.

However, sentiment remained weak, with investors reacting to the Federal Reserve's decision to continue with tapering, and a continuing sell-off in emerging markets.

(Read more: Emerging market rout 'a long time coming': Rhodes)

Ishaq Siddiqi, a market strategist at broker ETX Capital, said the Fed's announcement could boost markets over the longer-term.

"The move by the Fed is welcome in a broader context; the central bank has now set a precedent of how much it will cut by, offering the market a level of clarity and shows commitment that even in the face of some mixed data in January, the Fed has made its mind up and there's no U-turning now," Siddiqi said in a morning note.

Elsewhere, HSBC's final China PMI (purchasing manager's index) fell to a six-month low of 49.5 in January, worse than forecast last week. This raised further concerns about a slowdown in the world's second-largest economy.

Spanish data meets forecasts

Spain's economy grew 0.3 percent in the fourth quarter, preliminary data showed on Thursday, in-line with forecasts. It marked an improvement on the 0.1 percent growth in the third quarter.

(Read More: Spanish economy grows 0.3% in fourth quarter)

The German unemployment rate fell more than expected on Thursday. The adjusted jobless rate for January came in at 6.8 percent, below expectations of 6.9 percent. The figure for December was also revised down to 6.8 percent.

BSkyB shares rise

In stocks news, shares closed up roughly 4.0 percent after the U.K. broadcaster managed to beat market expectations with its revenues and operating profit.

(Read More: BSkyB CFO: Strong results show 'no distraction')

Shares of spirits maker finished the day down 4.7 percent after highlighting a fall in beer sales and weakness in emerging markets.

(Read More: Diageo sales up 1.8% despite 'mixed up' markets)

shares closed higher by approximately 1.5 percent on Thursday, despite the oil major posting its worst figures for five years. It had already flagged its bad news with a profit warning two weeks ago.

(Read More: Shell to step up asset sales after poor profits)

Meanwhile, shares of rose 4.3 percent as the Swiss pharmaceutical giant reported a 3 percent rise in 2013 sales, just below what analysts forecast in a Reuters poll.

(Read More: Roche 2013 salesfall but CEO confident on EM trade)

Shares of sank by 7 percent after the tyremaker denied having received offers for a potential takeover.

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