UK stocks surged strongly on Thursday amid hopes for more central-bank stimulus in Europe, assisted by strong gains from supermarket heavyweight Tesco as investors welcomed its turnaround plan and resilient Christmas sales.
London's FTSE 100 was trading 1.6% higher at 6,522 by midday.
The announcement by the Bank of England at noon that interest rates were left unchanged was never likely to have a major impact on the market, with most economists not expecting a rate rise until the latter part of the year at the earliest.
Both economic confidence and producer-price figures in the Eurozone came in below forecasts on Thursday morning, and followed the news on Wednesday that the region experienced consumer-price deflation in December.
While the figures add to concerns that the recovery in the single-currency region is faltering, the data puts further pressure on the European Central Bank (ECB) to fire off its hoped-for full-blown quantitative easing (QE) when it meets later this month.
"The pressure remains firmly on the ECB to deliver a sizeable QE programme at its meeting later this month to prevent deflation from becoming firmly entrenched," said Jessica Hinds at Capital Economics.
Later on, US jobless claims will be closely watched ahead of the pivotal US jobs report on Friday, which is expected to reveal that non-farm payrolls increased by 240,000 in December, compared with 321,000 in November. The unemployment rate is forecast to fall to 5.7% from 5.8%.
US stocks snapped a five-day losing streak on Wednesday, with the S&P 500
registering its first gain of the year, following a calmer session for currency and commodity markets.
Investors gave a largely neutral reaction to the minutes from the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting, which showed that officials would be patient over the first increase in interest rates. The details of the discussions at that last meeting suggested that the first hike would not come before April.
Tesco jumps as turnaround plan unveiled
surged 10% after it said it would cut costs substantially next year, close 43 unprofitable stores and lower prices, as chief executive Dave Lewis attempts to turn around the struggling supermarket chain. The news came as the company unveiled a "broad-based improvement" in UK trading with the like-for-like (LFL) sales decline easing to just 0.3% over Christmas.
Rival chains J Sainsbury and Wm Morrison were also putting in a decent performance on the stock market.
However, news that Tesco had poached Halfords chief executive Matt Davies sent shares in the bicycling and car parts retailer skidding downwards. Since Davies was appointed in 2012 amid a hopeful fanfare about his turnaround mission, shares in the company had more than doubled thanks to his efforts to improve the ailing business.
Retailer Marks & Spencer was heading lower after sales of general merchandise and womenswear over the Christmas period were significantly worse than had been expected, falling 5.8% on a LFL basis.
Building materials group CRH gained after saying its multiyear 1.5bn-2bn divestment programme announced last August was "well underway" after it sold off 16 assets in 2014. The company said it is "now well-positioned to pursue acquisitions which are in line with our long-term growth strategy".
Kitchens retailer Howden Joinery fired out an unscheduled trading statement to reveal that it expected profits for the full year will beat market expectations, causing shares to jump.
techMARK 2,974.62 +1.26%
FTSE 100 6,521.51 +1.58%
FTSE 250 16,015.21 +1.03%
FTSE 100 - Risers
Tesco (TSCO) 200.95p +10.41%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 246.00p +7.14%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 180.70p +5.43%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 745.50p +3.61%
Schroders (SDR) 2,671.00p +3.37%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 2,386.00p +3.33%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 222.25p +2.89%
Compass Group (CPG) 1,090.00p +2.83%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 988.10p +2.73%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,824.00p +2.70%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 444.20p -4.10%
British Land Co (BLND) 771.50p -0.96%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,527.00p -0.91%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 131.50p -0.68%
SSE (SSE) 1,591.00p -0.56%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,635.00p -0.55%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 453.20p -0.04%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 420.60p +7.24%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 259.60p +4.55%
BlackRock World Mining Trust (BRWM) 320.50p +3.79%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 887.00p +3.74%
Michael Page International (MPI) 418.70p +3.46%
Nostrum Oil & Gas (NOG) 443.20p +3.38%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 270.10p +3.33%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 403.20p +3.31%
Polymetal International (POLY) 598.00p +3.10%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 120.80p +2.98%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Halfords Group (HFD) 435.00p -5.95%
Zoopla Property Group (WI) (ZPLA) 183.60p -4.72%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 62.35p -3.78%
Dairy Crest Group (DCG) 471.40p -3.20%
Diploma (DPLM) 702.00p -2.36%
WH Smith (SMWH) 1,313.00p -2.09%
Savills (SVS) 645.00p -1.98%
Jimmy Choo (CHOO) 172.00p -1.71%
Paragon Group Of Companies (PAG) 412.90p -1.62%
Workspace Group (WKP) 768.00p -1.54%