European stock markets hit multi-year peaks on Wednesday, with Frankfurt and London at their highest levels since the 2008 global financial crisis, as investors were buoyed by resurgent global economic optimism and bumper gains in Asia and the United States.
Dealers took their cue from Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average scored its highest closing level since late 2007, with sentiment also boosted by ongoing monetary easing measures in Japan, Europe and the United States.
In morning deals, London's FTSE 100 index of top companies climbed to 6,457.69 points -- the highest intra-day level since January 4, 2008. It later stood at 6,443.80, up 0.18 percent from Tuesday's close.
Frankfurt's DAX meanwhile struck a similar high at 7,977.64 points, before pulling back to 7,943.08, up 0.92 percent.
In Paris, the CAC 40 hit a July 2011 pinnacle but later stood at 3,793.95 points, up 0.18 percent from Tuesday.
"The calming of the political and economic crisis in the eurozone, coupled with improving economy in the United States, has seen a resurgence in confidence," said Mike McCudden, head of derivatives at online stockbroker Interactive Investor.
"How high they can go remains to be seen as investors both retail and institutional continue to chase markets higher. However, what goes up must come down at some point."
In foreign exchange activity, the euro dipped to $1.3030 from $1.3047 late in New York on Tuesday. Gold prices eased to $1,575.15 an ounce on the London Bullion Market from $1,579.75.
Elsewhere, Madrid's IBEX 35 shares index gained 0.54 percent and Milan's FTSE MIB advanced 0.26 percent, despite ongoing Italian political uncertainty in the wake of last week's deadlocked elections.
"It looks like major surge of optimism is flooding the markets -- a boost from across the pond, where we have seen better than expected PMI numbers, and in Europe, the growing notion that Italy can actually avoid disaster," said Gekko Markets analyst Anita Paluch.
"All in all, everyone wants to jump on the train and not to miss the opportunity for good performance," she added.
Gains were capped after official data showed that the 17-nation eurozone sank further into recession in the last three months of 2012 as the debt crisis continued to exact a heavy price.
The eurozone economy shrank 0.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with the third quarter when it contracted 0.1 percent, the Eurostat data agency said, confirming initial estimates given in February.
Traders also remained cautious ahead of US ADP employment data and on the eve of key interest rate decisions in Britain and the eurozone.
Asian equities also rallied on Wednesday following a record-breaking performance by shares on Wall Street, with Tokyo and Sydney both hitting multi-year highs.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average had powered to an all-time peak on Tuesday, exactly four years after hitting bottom in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
The Dow finished 0.89 percent higher at 14,253.77, beating by nearly 90 points its former record seen on October 9, 2007, just before the onset of the global financial crisis.
The surge on the Dow, which has seen the index more than double since its trough in March 2009, comes despite uncertainty in the US economy and as Washington battles over how to trim its huge deficit. Shares were also helped by a pick-up in the country's services sector.
"Monetary easing measures by Japan, the US and Europe are providing excess liquidity in the market. The Dow's gains are just part of it," said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management.
In Asian trade on Wednesday, Tokyo surged 2.13 percent to end at 11,932.27 while Sydney gained 0.82 percent to 5,116.8. Both were high points not witnessed since September 2008.
Seoul was up 0.20 percent, while Hong Kong rose 0.96 percent and Shanghai added 0.90 pe