END-OF-DAY REPORT: Headline shares closed last full day of trading before the Christmas break with a flourish, with financial stocks leading the way and airline giant IAG in focus after acquisition news.
At the close of business, the FTSE100 was up 67.23 points at 5,456.97 with the FTSE250 ahead 60.52 points at 9,903.56 and the FTSE Smallcaps 11.06 points better at 2,715.62.
US stocks were moderately higher in late morning trade after a welcome fall in jobless claims and some upbeat consumer confidence data.
Approaching the close in London, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 26 points at 12,134, the S&P500 gained 5 points at 1,249 and the Nasdaq Composite advanced 14 points at 2,592.
The last full trading day before the Christmas break is devoid of corporate earnings news, but an upward revision of UK GDP for Q3 and a positive start on Wall Street helped maintain positive vibes.
The big news item of the day was the proposed takeover of British Midland by airline group IAG, which already owns BA and Iberia. Virgin Atlantic has indicated it will oppose the deal which would see IAG gain a large number of additional slots at Heathrow. IAG shares climbed 4.8p at 149.9p on the news.
The banks continued to thrive after the ECB loan handouts, with Lloyds up 0.92p at 25.85p. Barclays rose 4.15p at 176.1p and Royal Bank of Scotland advanced 0.79p at 20.61p.
Insurers also put in a bullish performance, with Aviva jumping 7.8p at 299.6p, Legal & General ahead 2.35p at 101.7p and Old Mutual adding to yesterday's gains with a further 5.4p at 135.6p.
Fund managers also enjoyed the new attraction for financial stocks, with Schroders gaining 31p at 1,298p and Hargreaves Lansdown 5.2p higher at 433.6p, although hedge fund manager Man Group bucked the trend, easing 0.5p at 125.4p.
Retailers were in demand on hopes of a last-minute shopping rush, with Tesco rising 4.7p at 387.6p, Morrisons ahead 2.3p at 318.5p and Sainsbury 3p better at 290.3p.
Miners were generally higher, although Vedanta Resources slipped 25p at 1,017p, and Randgold Resources eased 115p at 6,585p as the gold price stalled.
To the upside, Xstrata was among the best sector performers, up 13.7p at 971.5p, while Kazakhmys added 31.5p at 917p and Rio Tinto rose 55p at 3,140p.
A tick-up in WTI crude towards $100 a barrel boosted BP 10.75p at 450.3p, while Shell added 33.5p at 2,407.5p and BG Group advanced 25.5p at 1,335.5p.
Other notable gainers included temporary power provider Aggreko, up 27p at 1,999p, global brewer SABMiller, ahead 33.5p at 2,189.5p, and outsourcing group Invensys, 5.1p better at 205.2p.
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