Banks helped pull the London market higher today after eurozone debt fears were eased when France escaped a credit rating downgrade.
Ratings agency Fitch said it had no plans to slash France’s AAA rating, although the news was tempered by a warning that Italy could suffer a downgrade this month.
The FTSE 100 Index closed 84.4 points or 1.5% higher at 5,696.7, with Barclays up 6% or 10.2p at 188.3p, Royal Bank of Scotland ahead 1.1p at 21.1p and Lloyds Banking Group 1.1p higher at 27.3p.
Heavily-weighted mining stocks also soared today – Kazakhmys was the biggest riser, ahead 58p, or 6%, at £10.37, while Fresnillo was up 94p at £17.32.
The retail sector had a strong day after the British Retail Consortium reported stronger-than-expected sales in December.
Marks & Spencer’s shares were up 9.2p at 317.7p after the group reported a 0.5% increase in like-for-like group sales in the 13 weeks to December 31, supported by the better-than-expected performance in its food department.
Elsewhere on the high street, department stores group Debenhams was ahead 9% in the FTSE 250 Index after it reported a record pre-Christmas week and said underlying sales were flat across the 18 weeks to January 7. Shares were up 5.1p to 62p.
Next was 17p ahead at £25.90 and Primark owner Associated British Foods climbed 16p at £11.32.
At the other end of the spectrum however, video games retailer Game lost 2.9p at 3.9p, or 42%, after it recorded a 12.9% decline in like-for-like sales in the eight weeks to January 7.
The biggest Footsie fallers were Arm Holdings down 9p at 604p, GlaxoSmithKline off 15p at £14.20, Morrisons down 1.8p at 309.7p, and Aggreko off 8p at £21.23.
Alan Cockburn, of investment manager and financial planning specialist Brewin Dolphin in Aberdeen, noted that EnQuest had built on yesterday’s gains, adding a further 2.53% to 109.3p while Petrofac moved up 2.01% to £15.70. Other risers included Cairn Energy, which rose 3.28% to 270.4p.
Fallers included Parkmead Group which fell 2.52% to 13.75p and Faroe Petroleum which lost 1.08% to 160.25p. AG Barr and FirstGroup both fell, losing 1.25% to 1,203.5p and 1.11% to 329.55p respectively.