The London market shook off further weakness in the US dollar to recoup a chunk of its recent losses today.
The FTSE 100 Index stood 25 points higher at 4728.2 by mid-morning – despite the greenback falling to its lowest level against the pound for more than 12 years.
The improvement reflected the hopes of investors that the UK economy was regaining momentum lost over autumn.
A survey by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) found that operating conditions in the UK manufacturing sector improved markedly in November.
It followed upbeat comments from Bank of England governor Mervyn King yesterday that the UK economy appeared to be stronger in the fourth quarter.
Insurers were among the best performers among blue-chip stocks in London, with Royal & Sun Alliance rising more than 2% or 1.75p to 75.5p.
Others in the sector to benefit included Friends Provident, up 2p at 155.25p, and Prudential ahead by 5.5p at 423p.
Accountancy software group Sage was 3p higher at 196p after upping its dividend by 41% on the back of a 20% rise in annual profits to £181 million.
Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline benefited from a broker upgrade to add 15p to 1116p. Shire Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca also made progress, up 3p and 24p to 527.5p and 2069p respectively.
Outside the top flight, pubs group Mitchells & Butlers advanced 6.25p to 309p after saying annual profits totalled £184 million, higher than expected by analysts but 7.5% lower than a year ago.
Investors also welcomed a positive assessment on the housing market by building society Bradford & Bingley, which forecast a 2% rise in property prices next year. Its shares cheered 7.25p to 282.25p.
But engineering group WS Atkins eased 2% or 13p to 692p despite doubling its dividend and growing half-year profits by 43% to £34 million.