PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - European stocks rallied on Thursday, with a regional index ending at its highest closing level in seven years, after the European Central Bank unveiled a bond-buying scheme in a bid to revive the region's economy and stave off deflation.
ECB President Mario Draghi said the central bank would embark on a quantitative easing programme which, together with existing schemes, will pump 60 billion euros a month into the euro zone economy from this March until at least September next year.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares provisionally closed 1.6 percent higher at 1,453.28 points, its highest closing level since early 2008. Banks and automakers were among the best-performing sectors, seen benefiting from cheap lending rates and a weaker euro.
Southern European stocks featured among the top gainers, with both Italy's MIB index and Portugal's PSI 20 index rising 2.4 percent. (Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Lionel Laurent)