European stock exchanges closed firmer, with London FTSE 100 up 0.3% at 4,494 points.

In Paris, the CAC edged up 0.1% to 3,305 and in Frankfurt the DAX gained 0.5% to 5,122. The indexes finished in positive territory despite an initial decline after quarterly results from US banks Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo disappointed investors.

US stocks were steady after up a mixed batch of earnings reports and traders banked profits from the recent robust Wall Street rally.

The Dow Jones was down a marginal 0.1% at 8,907 shortly before 5.20pm. The Nasdaq was up 0.35% to 1,923. Shares had risen yesterday on the back of improved earnings reports and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's economic update to Congress.

In Dublin, the Irish index of Irish shares reversed earlier gains to close at 2,731 by. Irish Life & Permanent tacked on 15 cent to €3.05. Paddy Power shares went the other way, however, shedding 29 to €17.61.

In Asia, Japan's Nikkei stock average rose 0.7% to 9,723 to hit its highest in more than two weeks as technical buying boosted futures prices.