The FTSE 100 hit a fresh five-year high in morning trade on Wednesday morning on the back of hopes for further stimulus from the Bank of England, as minutes of the latest rate-setting meeting showed that more policy-makers voted for further asset purchases.
London's benchmark index hit an intraday high of 6,410 after the news before settling around the 6,400 mark, a level not seen since January 2008.
Minutes from the February meeting of the BoE's Monetary Policy Committee's (MPC) showed that the central bank was a fair bit more dovish than had been thought.
The MPC's decision to hold the size of its quantitative easing (QE) programme unchanged at £375bn on February 6-7th was decided upon by a margin of six votes in favour to three against, surprising analysts who had expected to MPC to vote eight-to-one. Even BoE Governor Sir Mervyn King added his name to the list of those calling for more stimulus.
The pound slid after the minutes were released and was trading down 0.75% against the dollar
at $1.5310 by midday.
Analyst Simon Hayes said that it remains "very unclear" if this month's vote marks the start of an "inexorable slide towards more QE".
"The MPC appears torn between feeling it should do more to boost demand and worrying that QE may not be the right tool, at least on its own," he said.
"There appeared to be more appetite on the committee to expand QE if it were done in conjunction with other policy measures to address particular market frictions or market failures that were holding back growth. The minutes record no concrete suggestions or conclusions, however."
FTSE 100: RSA plummets after surprise divi cut
Full-year results from RSA Insurance were largely in line with estimates, with extreme wet weather in the UK and earthquakes in Italy contributing to a 5.9% fall in operating profit. However, shares
tanked after the firm unveiled a 33% cut in its annual dividend due to the likelihood for a prolonged period of low bond yields.
Banking group Barclays was also under the weather after Goldman Sachs downgraded its rating for the stock to 'neutral' and cut its target price from 350p to 340p.
BHP Billiton was also lower after announcing a new CEO as its half-year profits dropped 58% on the back of weak commodity prices and a strong Australian dollar.
Rexam, the consumer packaging group, was a high riser despite saying that pre-tax profits fell 11.9% in 2012. The company raised its dividend by 6.0%.
Industrial engineering group Weir gained after spending £55m on three acquisition to strengthen its presence in the fast-growing mining markets.
Natural gas giant BG Group was higher on reports that it has Goldman Sachs to help analyse options for selling part of the infrastructure linked to its Australian liquefied natural gas project.
Telecoms firm Vodafone fell after spending £790m on buying spectrum licences for ultra-fast 4G mobile networks. However, BT, which spent £186m on a different band, was in demand.
FTSE 250: Travis Perkins slumps on cautious comments
Building materials group Travis Perkins fell after saying that "volatile conditions will persist in the shot term". Nevertheless, the company was able to increase pre-tax profits by 16.2% in 2012, while revenue rose 1.4%.
Wealth management group Rathbone Brothers was also lower despite saying that funds under management rose 13.4% in 2012.
House-builder Galliford Try gained after lifting its dividend by a third in spite of a 9.0% fall in group revenue and flat profits in 2012.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Rexam (REX) 500.00p +4.89%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 353.00p +2.29%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 247.90p +2.14%
ARM Holdings (ARM) 960.00p +1.96%
Unilever (ULVR) 2,661.00p +1.92%
Sage Group (SGE) 343.20p +1.78%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 812.50p +1.63%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,444.50p +1.61%
Schroders (SDR) 2,004.00p +1.47%
BG Group (BG.) 1,163.00p +1.39%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 117.20p -14.01%
Aviva (AV.) 355.90p -3.60%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 2,176.50p -2.66%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,521.00p -1.68%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,655.00p -1.58%
Barclays (BARC) 320.00p -1.54%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,083.00p -1.10%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 227.90p -0.91%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 1,274.00p -0.86%
Xstrata (XTA) 1,167.50p -0.85%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 241.10p +3.12%
Savills (SVS) 522.00p +2.76%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 684.00p +2.55%
BBA Aviation (BBA) 239.50p +2.53%
Alent (ALNT) 350.00p +2.46%
Cobham (COB) 231.40p +2.43%
Balfour Beatty (BBY) 280.40p +2.41%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 79.30p +2.32%
St. Modwen Properties (SMP) 279.00p +2.31%
Inchcape (INCH) 516.00p +2.28%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Bumi (BUMI) 378.50p -4.42%
Catlin Group Ltd. (CGL) 504.50p -4.00%
Petropavlovsk (POG) 309.00p -3.35%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 412.80p -3.30%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 423.70p -3.04%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,271.00p -2.83%
Renishaw (RSW) 1,802.00p -2.59%
Rathbone Brothers (RAT) 1,408.00p -2.22%
IP Group (IPO) 126.00p -1.95%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 282.40p -1.64%