The STOXX 600 index rose 0.1 percent, reversing weakness seen in morning trade after weak data from China and Germany added to a spate of less encouraging news on the global economy.
Shares in oil majors BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total and Eni rose between 0.4 and 1.3 percent as oil prices hit multi-year highs on concerns about U.S. sanctions on Iran, which are likely to restrict crude oil exports from one of the biggest producers in the Middle East. [O/R]
The oil and gas index <.SXEP> is by far the best sectoral performer in Europe so far this year, up nearly 13 percent. Although crude oil prices retreated, the index rose 0.9 percent.
"We continue to like the sector – particularly given the strength of support for cash distributions – but the stocks’ upsides to our target prices have become much more muted after the sector’s outperformance," said HSBC in a note.
Strength in the financial sector also supported European equities with Raiffeisen and Commerzbank rising 4.6 and 3.9 percent respectively following strong earning updates.
The earnings season was nearing its close with more than three-quarters of MSCI Europe companies having reported first-quarter results.
"Generally it's been slightly underwhelming on sales numbers and in line on earnings numbers," said Rory McPherson, head of investment strategy at Psigma Investment Management.
"European banks have tended to perform quite well and have picked up a lot recently with some good earnings," he added.
Credit Agricole added to the optimism around banking stocks. The French bank's shares had fallen at the open but recovered to trade up 1.2 percent after quarterly profit fell short of expectations.
Telecoms were the biggest sectoral weigh to the STOXX, falling 2 percent.
Vodafone fell 4.3 percent after the world's second largest mobile operator said its boss was leaving.
Vodafone, which also announced its full-year results, said CEO Vittorio Colao, who spent 10 years reshaping the group into a digital communications powerhouse, would be replaced by its current finance director.
French satellite firm Eutelsat also tumbled 12 percent after warning it could fall short of its full-year revenue target.
Elsewhere, Iliad shares sank 19 percent to the bottom of the STOXX after a management reshuffle and weak first-quarter results.
Dealmaking, which has been rife in European markets this year, continued with Worldline agreeing to buy the payments arm of Swiss stock exchange operator SIX for $2.75 billion.
Shares in the French payments company jumped 2 percent, while Atos, which has a majority stake in Worldline, rose 1.9 percent.
Temenos jumped 5.6 percent. The banking software firm was boosted by dealmaking in the sector and by its addition to MSCI's Switzerland index, traders said.
Still in earnings news, steel-to-submarines group Thyssenkrupp posted a surprise loss at its Industrial Solutions business, sending its shares down 6.4 percent, while Danish jewelry maker Pandora fell 15.5 percent on lower than expected profit due to a slowdown in China.
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Gareth Jones)
By Danilo Masoni and Helen Reid