European Markets
A general view with the German share price index DAX board of the German stock exchange in Frankfurt

European shares opened higher in the opening minutes of trade as investors look to extend gains after the regional indexes reached multi-year highs in the previous trading session.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index gained 0.1 percent to 1,189.6. The UK's FTSE 100 added 0.3 percent while Germany's DAX was up 0.4 percent, and France's CAC-40 rose 0.1 percent.

Italy's FTSE MIB remained flat and Spain's Ibex rose 0.1 percent.

On the continent, the eurozone GDP data is expected during the day and economic activity within the euro area is forecast to contract by 0.6 percent in the final three months of 2012.

In the US, factory orders for January are expected to show a fall of 2 percent in January. However, the employment data for February is predicted to rise by 180,000.

Earlier, most Asian bourses closed in the green with Australian and Japanese shares reaching fresh multi-year highs, boosted by an overnight Wall Street rally predicated on bullish service-sector data.

The Nikkei average stock index gained 1.3 percent or 154.2 points to 11,837.9 while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 1 percent or 48.1 points to 5,123.5. South Korea's KOSPI was up 0.6 percent.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6 percent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index gained 0.9 percent or 211.6 points to 22,772.1.

Oil prices rose some 30 cents a barrel following the announcement of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's death late last night. Analysts expected a short-term rise in oil prices due to the political uncertainty in Venezuela before the new leadership comes to power.

Major Movers in Asia

In Australia, banks gained with the ANZ and Commonwealth Bank adding 52 cents and 88 cents respectively. National Australia Bank gained 64 cents to $31.23.

In Tokyo, Sharp rose 17 percent on the back of media reports that South Korea's Samsung Electronics would invest 10bn yen ($107m) in the Japanese firm. Pioneer climbed 7.9 percent while Toshiba rose 2.1 percent.