Global markets race ahead as investors cheer potential boost from Trump policies
Global markets raced ahead on Wednesday as investors cheered a potential boost from the economic policies of US President Donald Trump.
In America, the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through the psychologically significant 20,000 mark for the first time in its history, while Germany's Dax reached its highest level since the summer of 2015.
However, trading was more subdued on London's top flight index, with sterling's jump to a six-week high against the US dollar holding back progress.
The FTSE 100 Index closed up 14.09 points to 7,164.43, with financial and mining stocks leading the charge on the top-flight.
Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the Trump jump had "propelled the Dow Jones to an unprecedented level" as investors snapped up US stocks in anticipation of lower corporate taxes and more government spending.
Across Europe, Germany's Dax rose 1.8% and the Cac 40 in France was 0.9% higher.
On the currency markets, sterling was up 0.8% versus the greenback at 1.261, helped by the weakened US dollar and renewed optimism after the Supreme Court ruling on Brexit.
The pound had stumbled in the previous session after the Supreme Court ruled the Government does not have to consult the devolved assemblies before kickstarting the Brexit process, but soon regained its poise.
Traders said that with a Brexit bill now set to be published on Thursday, there are hopes of less uncertainty, that has plagued the pound in recent months.
Against the euro, the pound was also up 0.7% at 1.174.
The price of oil was marginally ahead despite falling during Wednesday's session after a rise in US inventories suggested that growing shale output could dampen the impact of Opec's production cuts.
Brent crude was up 0.1% at 55.38 US dollars a barrel.
In UK stocks, b anks were enjoying gains in London, as Spanish group Banco Santander kicked off the European banking sector's results season with a respectable 4% rise in group earnings.
However, chief executive Nathan Bostock said the year ahead would be "changeable" as the group warned over a slowdown in corporate lending and more borrowers falling behind with repayments amid the fallout from Brexit.
Santander posted underlying pre-tax profits of £2.03 billion for 2016, up from £1.79 billion the previous year.
Following the update, Royal Bank of Scotland closed up more than 3%, or 7.5p, to 227.5p, while Standard Chartered rose 25.8p to 788.8p.
Away from the top tier, retailer WH Smith finished the biggest riser on the FTSE 250 Index after upgrading its full-year profit forecast thanks to another strong performance at its travel arm over the festive period.
The firm said like-for-like sales at its travel arm, which includes stores at airports and railway stations, rose 5% in the 21 weeks to January 21.
Shares were up 7%, or 104p, to 1,584p.
In a contrast of fortunes, Frankie & Benny's owner Restaurant Group crashed 13% after admitting that trading had continued to be challenging.
Shares fell 46.1p to 300p, as it said like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter fell 5.9% and dropped 3.9% over the year.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Antofagasta up 33.5p to 857.5p, Royal Bank of Scotland up 7.5p to 227.5p, Standard Chartered up 25.8p to 788.8p, St James's Place up 33p to 1,093p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 Index were Fresnillo down 62p to 1,420p, Randgold Resources down 225p to 6,630p, Vodafone Group down 6.5p to 192.9p, Hikma Pharmaceuticals down 48p to 1,863p.