Fightback for FTSE

The FTSE 100 Index broke a four-day losing streak today after US bank Wells Fargo gave the sector a surprise lift with forecast-beating results.

The news helped bank shares gain ground across the board, while in the UK, Barclays gained a fillip after confirming the £3bn (€3.3bn) sale of its iShares business.

The buoyant finish to a trading week shortened by the Easter holiday left the Footsie back within sight of the 4,000 mark as it closed 58.2 points higher at 3983.7.

Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average was also 2% higher as investors piled into banking stocks, while Asian and European markets posted gains.

In London, the Bank of England offered no surprises to the City, holding interest rates unchanged at 0.5% and making no move to change the scale of the £75bn (€83.5bn) quantitative easing operation launched last month.

However, all eyes were on the banks following the Wells Fargo figures as stocks surged up the risers board.

Barclays was the best performer in the sector, rallying more than 12%, or 19.7p to 177.5p in the wake of its iShares announcement, which boosts its capital strength.

It was closely followed by Royal Bank of Scotland, which cheered 2.9p to 26.1p and Lloyds Banking Group, 7.8p better at 79.5p. HSBC jumped 37p higher at 474p.

Miners also made progress after Vedanta Resources reported an increase in production for the fourth quarter.

Vedanta leapt to the top of the risers board with a gain of 13% or 100.5p to 873.5p, while Eurasian Natural Resources added 50.5p to 521.5p and Kazakhmys lifted 39.75p to 466p.

Oil prices firmed to near US$52 a barrel, following the stock market gains in a fluctuating week for crude prices. Oil-related stocks Petrofac and Amec climb the leaders board - up 29.5p to 585p and 22p to 570.5p respectively, while prospector Cairn Energy was 96p better at 2170p.

Investors ditched shares in more defensive sectors as risk appetite returned. Imperial Tobacco was the leading top-flight faller - down 55p to 1477p - and British American Tobacco slid 35p to 1570p.

In an otherwise quiet session for corporate news, recruitment firm Hays spooked investors early on by announcing a 37% drop in net fees from the UK and Ireland.

Panmure Gordon stockbrokers responded by slashing its earnings per share estimate for next year by 29% in the wake of the third quarter update. Shares fell 4% at one stage but later recovered their poise to stand 0.75p higher at 74.75p.

Software firm Misys rose almost 12% in the FTSE 250 Index after it reported growth in its banking arm, despite the recent turmoil in the sector. Shares were 13.5p higher at 129.25p.

Meanwhile, housebuilders continued to strengthen after a recent spate of positive broker notes on the sector. Barratt Developments was 23.75p higher at 152p, while Taylor Wimpey cheered 4.25p to 47.25p and Redrow gained 14p to 205p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Vedanta Resources up 100.5p at 873.5p, Barclays up 19.7p to 177.5p, RBS up 2.9p at 29p and Lloyds, which gained 7.8p to 79.5p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Imperial Tobacco down 55p at 1477p, Cadbury down 18p to 517p, Associated British Foods off 21.5p at 628.5p and Morrisons down 8p at 250p.

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