London shares finished a gloomy week with a flourish today as the FTSE 100 Index managed to avoid five consecutive sessions in the red.
Better-than-expected economic data in the United States provided a nervy market with relief and pushed the Footsie up 85.7 points to 3655.6 by the close.
In a reversal of fortunes after 200 points were lost in the previous four sessions, only four stocks ended in negative territory.
The sudden improvement offset earlier weakness as the Footsie trod water around its opening mark for much of the session.
But traders seized upon brighter GDP figures and better consumer sentiment data in the United States as a reason to jump back into the market.
In London, banks and insurers were finally helping to boost the market after a difficult week.
With mutual Standard Life assuring investors over its financial position, Royal & Sun Alliance – due to issues results on Thursday – rose more than 9%, or 6p, to 71.5p while Prudential lifted 7.75p to 338p.
Norwich Union owner Aviva gained 15.75p to 395.75p while Legal & General just broke into positive territory – up 0.5p at 74.75p.
Among the banks, Abbey National gained 11.5p to 390p, HBOS rose 36.5p at 662p, Barclays cheered 21.5p to 367p and Royal Bank of Scotland lifted 59p to 1453p.
Others on the up included Shire Pharmaceuticals, which gained 12% – up 35p at 328p – as investors returned to the stock after heavy falls yesterday in the wake of its annual results announcement.
But even Shire was unable to keep pace with the gain enjoyed by engineering group Invensys, which topped the Footsie risers board with a rise of 2.25p to 16p as it looked to recover ground after recent heavy falls.
Elsewhere, airports operator BAA rose 22.5p to 433p after the Civil Aviation Authority agreed a 40% increase in the charges faced by airlines for using the UK’s biggest airport Heathrow.
However, retailers were largely unmoved by the competition watchdog’s concerns over the sale of extended warranties on household electrical products. Dixons rose 0.75p to 92p while Comet owner Kingfisher was up 7.75p to 228.75p.
Among companies reporting results today, mining giant Anglo American rose 23p to 918p when a 5% rise in earnings came in ahead of expectations.
Outside the Footsie, leisure group Rank fell a penny to 233.5p as it reported that tough trading conditions had continued at its Hard Rock cafes.
The fall overturned early gains driven by the group’s strong performance in gaming as underlying profits rose £12 million to £200.3 million.
Groupe Chez Gerard, owners of the Chez Gerard restaurant chain, gained almost 4% – lifting 2.5p to 68.5p – after it said it had arrested the decline in its performance following the disposal of a number of under-performing sites.
The biggest Footsie risers were Invensys up 2.25p at 16p, Shire Pharmaceuticals ahead 35p at 328p, Royal & Sun Alliance up 6p at 71.5p and BT Group ahead 11p at 163.5p.
The four Footsie fallers were Scottish & Newcastle down 8.25p at 336p, Old Mutual off 0.75p at 83p, Diageo down 2p at 630p and Land Securities Group off 2p at 744p.