European shares paused after a three-day rally as investors pulled back from multi-month highs and one of the longest winning streaks in three months.

Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.3 percent by mid-morning in London to push the benchmark to the highest level in more than a week. The broadest measure of European share price performance, the FTSE Eurofirst 300, rose 0.45 percent following its best single-day gain in three months - a 1.8 percent advance - Wednesday. Elsewhere Germany's DAX gained 0.5 percent by 1030 GMT to trade at 7,850.45.

Italy tapped the bond markets today with a three-part auction that raised €7.2bn and drew lower yields and stronger investor demand than during similar sales earlier in the year. The sales tested investor appetite amid the continuing political turmoil in Europe's third-largest economy and an overall debt burden than the government said yesterday will surpass 130 percent of GDP later this year.

Equity markets in Asia extended their longest winning streak in three months Thursday after yesterday's record close for stock in the United States and better-than-expected loan data from China.

US stocks were pushed by an early release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's interest rate setting meeting which ended on 20 March and showed that, while some members of the Open Markets Committee discussed slowing the pace of the $85bn in monthly asset purchases by the end of the year, the current labour market conditions would need to improve "substantially" before that could happen.

The benchmark S&P 500 gained 1.2 percent Wednesday to notch another all-time high close of 1,587.73 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 128 points and also reached a record close of 14,802.24.

In Asia, stocks were given further support from data from the People's Bank of China which showed new lending in March exceeded 1 trillion yuan - nearly double the February total and well ahead of analysts' expectations. Along with better-than-expected March import data and slowing inflation, the figures collectively gave investors renewed optimism that the world's second-largest economy will avoid a so-called "hard landing".

Japan's Nikkei 225 surged nearly 2 percent to test a five year high as the country's benchmark index continues to reflect the impact of the Bank of Japan's aggressive new policy strategy to combat a decade of deflation. The yen tumbled further on the back of the BoJ's planned 7.5 trillion yen ($76bn) in monthly asset purchases to trade at a four-year low of 99.88 against the US dollar.