FTSE up more than 100 points

The FTSE 100 Index today rallied past the 6,000 mark for the first time in nearly a month after a report revealed the US unemployment rate fell to a two-year low in March.

FTSE up more than 100 points

The FTSE 100 Index today rallied past the 6,000 mark for the first time in nearly a month after a report revealed the US unemployment rate fell to a two-year low in March.

The London market closed 101.2 points higher at 6009.92, after the US Labor Department said the unemployment rate fell to 8.8% as companies added workers at the fastest month-on-month pace since the recession.

Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average surged in early trading, up 0.8% as the figures lifted confidence in the global recovery. Elsewhere, the DAX in Germany was ahead 2% and France's Cac-40 was up 1.6%.

PMI manufacturing data highlighted inflationary pressures in the UK, adding weight to the argument for an interest rate hike. This lifted the pound, which was up against the US dollar at 1.61 and the euro at 1.13.

The banking sector surged ahead as traders shrugged off the implications of the Irish bank stress test results.

The Central Bank in Dublin yesterday confirmed the final bill for bailing out Ireland's beleaguered banks would be an eye-watering €70bn.

The figure initially sparked declines across the banking sector, but analysts said traders soon realised there was "little to fear".

Part-nationalised Lloyds Banking Group led the sector, up 2.9p at 61p, while fellow taxpayer-backed bank Royal Bank of Scotland stood 1.6p higher at 42.3p. Both banks are seen as being heavily exposed to the Irish economy.

Barclays was ahead more than 4%, up 11.9p at 289.5p, while HSBC advanced 14.1p to 655.1p.

Oil giant BP enjoyed a rare appearance on the risers' board after a poor run sparked by its deteriorating share swap and exploration deal with Russian government-owned Rosneft.

A bullish broker note from JP Morgan Casenove helped shares in the embattled firm advance nearly 4%, or 16p to 470p.

Retail giant Marks & Spencer was also in the spotlight after new boss Marc Bolland announced the chain's return to France a decade after it pulled out of the country.

The retailer is to launch a website in France and open a three-storey outlet on the Champs Elysees in Paris towards the end of 2011. M&S shares moved ahead following the announcement, up 2.2p to 338.9p.

Elsewhere in the retail sector, stocks hit hard by recent gloom pulled out of their tailspin.

Dixons Retail steadied after two days of heavy declines sparked by this week's profits warning, with shares up 0.1p to 12.7p.

Elsewhere, Primark-owner Associated British Foods was up 11p at 1003p, B&Q parent Kingfisher was ahead 7.9p at 253.8p and Next added 20p at 2000p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Wood Group up 32.5p at 670p, Lloyds Banking Group ahead 2.9p at 61p, Randgold Resources up 232p at 5200p and Barclays ahead 11.9p at 289.5p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were 3i Group down 13.1p at 285.8p, Serco Group off 10p at 548p, Intercontinental Hotels down 14p at 1264p and International Power off 2.8p at 305.2p.

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