A host of central-bank policy meetings, a dovish tone from Mario Draghi and the continued improvement in US economic data helped lift stocks higher on Thursday, with the FTSE 100 closing at levels not seen in three weeks.
London's benchmark index ended the day up 57.7 points at 6,532.44, its highest level since August 14th when it finished at 6,587.43.
"European equities are enjoying the continued central-bank activism of low interest rates environment sticking around for the foreseeable future," said Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital.
The Bank of Japan, Bank of England and European Central Bank (ECB) all decided to keep interest rates on hold and current stimulus measures in place on Thursday.
However, stocks extended gains in the afternoon after ECB President Mario Draghi struck a dovish tone in a press conference following the bank's decision, saying that the Governing Council had even discussed a rate cut at this month's meeting but decided against it. Draghi did however raise his expectations for Eurozone growth for this year.
A barrage of US economic data came in better than expected this afternoon, supporting the call for the Federal Reserve to begin tapering asset purchases at its next meeting later this month - jobless claims fell more than forecasts, factory orders declined less than expected and the ISM non-manufacturing index smashed estimates.
However, given that the Fed has explicitly said that the labour market is a key factor in its decision, analysts will be watching the August employment report - due out on Friday afternoon - very carefully.
Consensus estimates are for a 180,000 increase in non-farm payrolls last month, up from the 162,000 gain in July. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged at 7.4%, though this has already fallen speedily from 7.9% in January.
Meanwhile, the G20 meeting which began in St Petersburg today was likely on the back of investors' minds, given that a potential US military strike in Syria is expected to be the hot topic amongst world leaders. Michael Hewson, Senior Market Analyst at CMC Markets, said: "while there may not be much in the way of fireworks we could well see a lot of tension, given the opposing views of the US and Russia, over the rationale for any type of intervention."
FTSE 100: M&S leaps after HSBC upgrade
High Street department store Marks & Spencer surged today after HSBC upgraded the stock from 'neutral' to 'overweight', saying it is the most operationally geared among its peers to play on the UK consumer recovery.
Hotels group IHG was also a high riser after UBS raised its rating from 'neutral to 'buy' and added the stock to its 'Most Preferred' list. The Swiss bank highlighted alleviated concerns about pipeline after the company added more rooms in the first half and also pointed to improving growth in China and continued strength in the US.
Decent August traffic statistics from airline peers easyJet and IAG over the last 24 hours have helped both stocks rebound today after falling heavily yesterday on the back of a profit warning from Ryanair, Europe's largest low-cost carrier.
Banks were also performing well with Lloyds, Standard Chartered, HSBC, RBS and Barclays all registering decent gains. Lloyds was being helped higher by reports that the Treasury could delay the sale of its 39% stake until later this year because of ongoing tensions in the Middle East and the Fed's taper plan.
Meanwhile, food groups Tate & Lyle and AB Foods were lower after Credit Suisse highlighted concerns about sugar prices falling sooner and more steeply than expected.
Pharmaceuticals group GlaxoSmithKline was also in the red after announcing a setback on its potential new skin-cancer treatment during clinical trials.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Persimmon (PSN) 1,152.00p +3.69%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 494.90p +3.38%
ITV (ITV) 174.60p +3.07%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 74.77p +2.95%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 299.40p +2.89%
Kingfisher (KGF) 405.80p +2.86%
GKN (GKN) 346.60p +2.70%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,472.50p +2.58%
Wolseley (WOS) 3,383.00p +2.52%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,147.00p +2.50%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 799.50p -1.60%
Croda International (CRDA) 2,607.00p -1.25%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,652.50p -0.81%
British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY) 851.50p -0.76%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 1,829.00p -0.65%
G4S (GFS) 254.40p -0.62%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 881.00p -0.56%
Bunzl (BNZL) 1,365.00p -0.44%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,599.00p -0.37%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,260.00p -0.32%
FTSE 250 - Risers
ICAP (IAP) 400.00p +6.70%
Dixons Retail (DXNS) 46.88p +5.92%
Supergroup (SGP) 1,227.00p +5.87%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 279.30p +5.68%
Tullett Prebon (TLPR) 382.40p +5.29%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 152.50p +5.03%
Halfords Group (HFD) 381.00p +4.01%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 107.50p +3.97%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 277.90p +3.89%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 1,015.00p +3.73%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Bumi (BUMI) 213.40p -2.87%
Countrywide (CWD) 550.00p -2.65%
BH Macro Ltd. EUR Shares (BHME) € 20.62 -2.51%
Rank Group (RNK) 153.10p -2.48%
Dairy Crest Group (DCG) 490.60p -2.17%
Ted Baker (TED) 1,920.00p -2.14%
esure Group (ESUR) 228.50p -1.93%
International Public Partnerships Ltd. (INPP) 128.60p -1.83%
NMC Health (NMC) 323.00p -1.79%
Enterprise Inns (ETI) 143.40p -1.71%