European stock markets rose Thursday as investors looked beyond the Ukraine crisis to better than expected US jobs data and the likelihood of stronger growth for the eurozone this year. However, investors in Russia were rattled after local parliament in Ukraine's Crimea said it was seeking approval from Russian President Vladimir Putin to join his country, sending the ruble down against the euro. The ruble was trading at 50.06 to the euro at 1445 GMT, 0.5 rubles more than the closing price a day ago, with pressure also increased by optimistic comments by the ECB chief Mario Draghi on the eurozone. Moscow's main stock markets also closed down, with the MICEX declining 0.97 percent and the RTS shedding 1.47 percent. However, the drop was significantly smaller than the over 10 percent plunge in stock markets on Monday over the Russian parliament's approval for Putin's request to allow military action in Ukraine. Meanwhile, European markets were lifted by prospects of better than expected eurozone growth for 2014, after the ECB raised its forecast to 1.2 percent while trimming the inflation outlook to 1.0 percent. London's benchmark FTSE 100 index climbed to 6,796.8 points, up 0.32 percent in mid-afternoon trade. Frankfurt's DAX 30 was also up 0.12 percent to 9,553.41 points and in Paris the CAC 40 gained 0.61 percent to 4,418.19 compared with Wednesday's closing values. The ECB also kept its key interest rates unchanged for the fourth month in a row at 0.25 percent. Likewise, the Bank of England voted to keep its main interest rate at 0.50 percent. - US jobless claims down - Investors were also buoyed by strong jobs data in the United States, where first-time claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to a three-month low. Initial jobless claims totalled 323,000 in the week ending March 1, a decline of 26,000 from the prior week's revised reading of 349,000, the Labor Department said. Analysts had expected the claims to fall to 338,000. The figure was a "sign companies are holding on to their staff even as cold weather threatens to slow the world's largest economy", said Spreadex analyst Lee Mumford. The data helped push up US stocks at the open. Five minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.26 percent to 16,402.61 points. The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite rose 0.28 percent to 4,370.00, while the S&P 500 index, a broad measure of the markets, advanced 5.36 (0.29 percent) to 1,879.17. Asia's stock markets closed higher on Thursday as Western and Russian leaders tried to broker a deal to end the Ukraine crisis, while Wall Street on Wednesday provided a tepid lead following an anaemic batch of US economic data. In foreign exchange deals, the euro rose to $1.3844 from $1.3734 late in New York on Wednesday. The dollar climbed to 103.01 yen from 102.28 yen. The British pound was up against the dollar but down against the euro. On the London Bullion Market, the price of gold dipped to $1,334.25 an ounce from $1,337 on Wednesday. Investor confidence in higher risk assets has slowly returned, sending the safe-haven yen falling also against the euro. On the corporate front, Bouygues Telecom on Thursday made a 14.5 billion-euro ($19.9-billion) offer for Vivendi's SFR unit in a deal that could create a new French telecoms powerhouse. Shares in Aviva meanwhile rocketed 9.32 percent to 509.5 pence after the British insurer said it swung back into profit during 2013.