Shares stay positive over US hopes

Blue-chip shares ended the week on a positive note as continued cheer over the prospect of the US Federal Reserve continuing its massive asset-buying programme saw global markets push higher.

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Higher oil prices help maintain gains on the London market.

Oil stocks were among the winners after reassuring comments about quantitative easing (QE) from incoming Fed boss Janet Yellen, as Brent crude rose to more than 108 US dollars a barrel in London - though it later dipped just below that level.

The FTSE 100 Index lifted 27.3 points to 6693.4 and bourses in France and Germany were also on the front foot following strong gains in the previous session on the optimism over US monetary policy.

Meanwhile in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average built on the new record highs it had reached overnight.

In currency markets, sterling was flat against the greenback at 1.61 US dollars and against the euro at 1.19 euros.

On a quiet day for economic and corporate announcements, the mood among equity investors continued to be buoyed by Ms Yellen's remarks that the Fed has "more work to do" to help the American economy.

Her comments to US senators ahead of taking over from Ben Bernanke at the end of January have calmed nerves on markets amid jitters over QE tapering as the recovery in the world's largest economy takes hold.

In London, oil stocks littered the risers board with energy explorer Tullow Oil notching up a 12p gain to 897p and Royal Dutch Shell up 43p to 2185.5p. BP was 4.8p higher at 488.1p.

The improved sentiment over global share prospects also benefited a clutch of mining stocks, with Mexico-focused Fresnillo up 26.5p to 941.5p, Anglo American climbing 19.5p to 1430p and Antofagasta up 8p to 812p.

Elsewhere an earnings upgrade from British Airways owner International Airlines Group failed to help its shares take off as investors took profits, sending them 10.8p down to 362.2p.

Meanwhile, traders were relatively unmoved over the prospects of 1,700 job cuts at UK branches of Barclays, with the bank's shares down 0.6p to 249.4p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, Frankie & Benny's owner The Restaurant Group fell 2%, or 11.5p, to 544.5p, after its latest trading update showed it had suffered a slow down in sales growth over the period since the end of the first half.

The group said like-for-like sales were up 3.5% in the 45 weeks to November 10, lower than the 5% increase in the first half. Analysts at Numis Securities said the figures implied that growth had fallen to 1.5% since the half year.

Meanwhile Aga Rangemaster shares were fired up after the latest signs of a sales revival, rising nearly 7%, or 8.2p to 131.8p.

Chief executive William McGrath said: "The improving housing market creates a more positive backcloth for the group and sales trend lines in most of our operations are encouraging."

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Fresnillo, up 26.5p to 941.5p, Mondi, up 23p to 1019p, easyJet up 28p to 1265p and Royal Dutch Shell up 43p to 2185.5p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Vedanta Resources, down 68.5p to 955.5p, International Airlines Group down 10.8p to 362.2p, CRH down 26p to 1591p, and Meggitt down 7p to 505p.