Details of the European Central Bank's (ECB) quantitative easing package helped the FTSE 100 to another record close on Thursday, with financial stocks making solid gains by the end of the session.
The Footise finished the day 41.9 points higher (+0.61%) at 6,961.14, surpassing a previous closing record of 6,949.73 reached last week.
"ECB-inspired afternoon resilience in European equity markets drags the FTSE ever closer to the 7,000 level," said analyst Alastair McCaig from IG.
ECB president Mario Draghi confirmed the Bank's 1.1trn quantitative easing programme will begin on 9 March, with 60bn of asset purchases each month through to September 2016 and thereafter if needed. It also raised emergency liquidity assistance for Greece by 500m and announced that it has removed the waiver on purchases of the nation's debt.
The ECB also raised its Eurozone growth projections for 2015 and 2016 to 1.5% and 1.9%, from 1% and 1.5% respectively, though inflation is forecast to average 0% in 2015 before rising to 1.7% by 2017.
"The ECB effectively acknowledged that even with this programme, it would fall short of its below but close to 2% target over the next three years," said analyst Craig Erlam from Oanda.
In other news, the Bank of England decided to keep the Bank Rate at 0.5%, marking the sixth consecutive year of inaction.
Economic data mostly came in worse than expected on Thursday, with Germany factory orders slumping 3.9%, US jobless claims unexpectedly rising 7,000 and US factory orders registering a surprise 0.2% fall.
Aviva and Friends Life lead financials higher
Insurers Aviva and Friends Life Group each jumped over 7% on Thursday as investors celebrated the companies' 2014 results ahead of the proposed merger. The impressive figures also helped to allay fears across the wider sector, showing that companies have been able to withstand sharp falls in annuity sales following the reforms announced at the time of the Autumn Budget.
Insurance peers including Standard Life, Legal & General, Prudential and Old Mutual were all putting in decent gains in afternoon trade, along with non-life counterpart Admiral despite reporting a 4% fall in profits for last year.
Shares in Betfair surged after the online gaming group upgraded its guidance for full-year profits following a strong third quarter with revenues up 20%.
Leading the downside were Rio Tinto and HSBC after going ex-dividend, while travel peers IAG and Easyjet also fell as crude prices gained.
techMARK 3,184.44 +0.77%
FTSE 100 6,961.14 +0.61%
FTSE 250 17,310.31 +1.02%
FTSE 100 - Risers
Friends Life Group Limited (FLG) 434.90p +7.07%
Aviva (AV.) 569.50p +7.05%
Schroders (SDR) 3,178.00p +4.75%
Standard Life (SL.) 442.00p +4.44%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,514.00p +3.77%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 985.00p +3.68%
Glencore (GLEN) 291.85p +3.04%
Wolseley (WOS) 4,083.00p +2.85%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,739.00p +2.78%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 277.80p +2.77%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Rio Tinto (RIO) 2,985.00p -2.88%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 570.60p -2.64%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 562.00p -1.32%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,129.00p -1.31%
BG Group (BG.) 922.20p -1.13%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 356.50p -1.00%
Shire Plc (SHP) 5,200.00p -0.95%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,014.50p -0.93%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,722.00p -0.92%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 423.40p -0.75%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Betfair Group (BET) 2,105.00p +17.86%
Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 3,407.00p +10.62%
Pace (PIC) 382.50p +6.37%
Essentra (ESNT) 1,039.00p +5.38%
Serco Group (SRP) 217.80p +5.32%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 272.00p +5.02%
Morgan Advanced Materials (MGAM) 339.00p +4.92%
Synthomer (SYNT) 288.30p +4.38%
Hellermanntyton Group (HTY) 348.00p +4.35%
Greggs (GRG) 1,001.00p +3.95%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Afren (AFR) 5.83p -11.67%
Allied Minds (ALM) 587.00p -5.85%
Lonmin (LMI) 136.50p -3.94%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 232.30p -3.61%
Cobham (COB) 321.70p -3.39%
Jimmy Choo (CHOO) 170.50p -2.46%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 5,860.00p -2.17%
Brown (N.) Group (BWNG) 427.80p -2.02%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,038.00p -1.98%
Aveva Group (AVV) 1,500.00p -1.90%