Among decliners, Iberdrola SA shares dropped 3.2% after coming off a trading halt. Spanish nationalized lender Bankia said it sold its 4.9% stake in the power company, part of a larger divestment plan for the bank. Separately, Iberdrola said net profit fell 3% in the first nine months of the year.

Most retail stocks held gains after sales updates. Shares of LVMH Mo√ęt Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA remained a stand-out with their rise of 3.4%. The gain came after the luxury-goods industry bellwether posted a 6% increase in first-quarter sales, excluding currency fluctuations and acquisitions.

Shares of Christian Dior SA were up 2.3%, and Gucci parent Kering SA picked up 1.7%, though that gain was pared from a 4.9% rise. But shares of Marks and Spencer Group PLC dropped 2.2%, giving up an earlier rise of 3.3%. The company said fourth-quarter sales increased by 1.9%.

Marks and Spencer shares had been among the best-performing on the U.K.'s FTSE 100 . The index also reversed course and was flat at 6,640.57.

Investors later Thursday will look for a likely decision by the Bank of England to leave the country's benchmark interest rate unchanged at 0.5%, as inflation runs below the bank's threshold target and the U.K. unemployment rate remains above 7%.

European stocks overall had earlier tracked a rise on Wall Street after minutes from the Fed's March meeting were released. The minutes suggested policy makers want to stay accommodative, given downward revisions in economic-growth projections and concerns about low inflation. Stock futures pointed to a weaker Wall Street start though.

Equities in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong and Shanghai Composite, finished higher despite weak trade data from China. The markets found strength after China said it plans to widen access to markets, including for overseas investors.

After a higher start, Germany's DAX 30 moved down 0.4% to 3,092.89, and France's CAC 40 fell 0.4% to 4,425.50. Shares of Carrefour SA fell 0.7% following the French retailer's report that first-quarter sales fell nearly 4%, hurt in part by foreign-exchange losses.

Meanwhile, Greece's first bond sale since its 2010 bailout will raise 3 billion euros ($4.15 billion) at a yield of 4.95%, according to media reports. Demand came in at more than EUR20 billion, helping push the yield lower than the level expected by Greek officials ahead of the sale.