Following a subdued morning session, stocks across Europe raced into positive territory on Thursday afternoon on the back of some decent economic data Stateside.
Better-than-expected US housing starts and jobless claims figures lifted the mood this afternoon, prompting a strong start on Wall Street, as investors shrugged off some disappointing fourth-quarter earnings from banking heavyweights Bank of America and Citigroup.
However, as market strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital explained: "Markets on both sides of the Atlantic leapt higher with market participants moving out of the sidelines to build positions, latching on the positives; solid Spanish auction which propelled the euro and eased peripheral bond yields; expectations of strong China data due in the early hours of tomorrow morning which is supporting commodity prices at the moment and the fact that we have had some relatively upbeat earnings from Europe, particularly out of the UK retailers."
FTSE 100: Associated British Foods surges after Primark performance
Sugar and retail group Associated British Foods was registering impressive gains this morning after saying that year-to-date trading has been ahead of its expectations. This was helped by an "outstanding" performance by its Primark division, which saw constant currency sales jump 27% in the first 16 weeks of its fiscal year. Both Canaccord Genuity and Panmure Gordon raised their target prices for the stock today.
Airline group IAG blasted off as its carrier British Airways announced new routes and terminal changes for summer 2013.
Temporary power and temperature controls group Aggreko also rose after announcing it had completed a nine-month contract to provide back-up energy during the construction of a £190m extension of the Thames Water Sewage Treatment Works at Beckton, east London.
Aberdeen Asset Management was among the worst performers despite saying that assets under management rose 3% in its first quarter. However the group warned that while stock markets have begun strongly in the 2103, "we believe that uncertainty still persists and that further periods of volatility remain likely in the months ahead".
Rio Tinto was unwanted after its Tom Albanese stepped down as Chief Executive Officer following an announcement by the company that it expects to recognise a non-cash impairment charge of approximately $14bn in its 2012 full-year results. While the stock suffered heavy losses early on, these were trimmed after analysts said that any weakness today should be seen as a buying opportunity. In a similar vein, Citigroup its recommendation for the firm today from 'neutral' to 'buy'.
Anglo American was extending losses following Tuesday's shake-up of its platinum division, which includes the closure and several mines and thousands of job losses. With workers now staging protests, the stock has now dropped around 9% over the past week, weighed down further by a downgrade from Exane BNP Paribas today to 'underperform'. The same broker also cut its rating for Xstrata.
Cruise operator Carnival rose after boosting its share buy-back programme and declaring a quarterly dividend of 25 cents per share. The company has already completed $835m of its $1bn of its buy-back programme announced back in September 2007, but has now decided to raise the limit back up to $1bn, taking the total of repurchases to $1.835bn.
FTSE 250: Home Retail impresses with Argos sales
Home Retail Group soared to the top of the FTSE 250 after Britain's biggest household retailer lifted its full-year profit guidance. The group said its annual pre-tax profit would be £10m pounds ahead of current market consensus at £73m after strong demand for tablet devices drove the group to better than expected third-quarter sales at its Argos business.
Petropavlovsk followed closely behind after the mining group said gold production increased 13% in 2012 and realised gold prices
Dragging behind in the race was Stobart Group which fell following the multimodal logistics company's announcement that operating performance for the current year could be "slightly lower" than market expectations.
New World Resources was a heavy faller on the second-tier index after Exane BNP Paribas cut the stock to 'underperform' and reduced its target price from 270p to 230p.
FTSE 100 - Risers
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 211.80p +4.33%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 1,606.00p +3.21%
ITV (ITV) 113.60p +3.18%
Aggreko (AGK) 1,818.00p +2.71%
Experian (EXPN) 1,086.00p +2.26%
Old Mutual (OML) 186.10p +2.20%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,169.00p +1.74%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 151.30p +1.54%
BT Group (BT.A) 244.80p +1.49%
Reed Elsevier (REL) 678.50p +1.42%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 385.00p -1.71%
National Grid (NG.) 682.50p -1.44%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,673.00p -1.30%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,084.00p -1.19%
Kingfisher (KGF) 285.10p -1.14%
Eurasian Natural Resources Corp. (ENRC) 343.30p -1.07%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 5,840.00p -0.85%
Amec (AMEC) 1,081.00p -0.73%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 2,061.50p -0.72%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,281.00p -0.62%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Home Retail Group (HOME) 136.60p +12.43%
Petropavlovsk (POG) 403.30p +8.88%
Computacenter (CCC) 450.00p +7.14%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 180.20p +5.38%
Bumi (BUMI) 330.00p +5.03%
Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 349.90p +3.64%
Senior (SNR) 204.40p +3.39%
Pace (PIC) 220.00p +3.33%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 393.00p +3.15%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 951.50p +2.98%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
New World Resources A Shares (NWR) 294.50p -5.82%
Stobart Group Ltd. (STOB) 92.55p -2.63%
SDL (SDL) 499.50p -2.63%
Domino Printing Sciences (DNO) 627.50p -2.56%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 55.25p -2.47%
CSR (CSR) 350.00p -1.88%
Hiscox Ltd. (HSX) 454.20p -1.75%
Grainger (GRI) 124.00p -1.74%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 453.80p -1.58%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 257.00p -1.49%