London’s blue chip share index maintained its new year rally as fresh optimism over the Chinese economy helped overshadow more gloom on the UK high street.
The top flight also shook off a mixed start to trading on Wall Street after the latest batch of US earnings figures, with Morgan Stanley and General Electric beating expectations, but chipmaker Intel under pressure after a 27% drop in profits.
The FTSE 100 Index closed up 22.1 points at 6154.4 amid cheer after China’s latest economic figures showed output rose to 7.9% in the final three months of the year, from 7.4% in the previous quarter.
While the result for the year of 7.8% was still the country’s weakest annual performance since the 1990s, it renewed hopes for a bounce back in the world’s second largest economy.
But the pound was knocked by the latest grim report on the UK retail sector after the Office for National Statistics said seasonally-adjusted sales volumes declined by 0.1% on the previous month.
This was worse than City forecasts for a rise of 0.2% and fuelled expectations that the UK economy will show another decline when fourth quarter gross domestic product figures are released next Friday.
Sterling fell in response to the figures, hitting a 10 month low against the euro - at 1.19 euros - and falling for the sixth straight day against the US dollar, to $1.59.
The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Evraz up 13p to 304.4p, Wood Group ahead 22p to 826.5p, Johnson Matthey 60p higher at 2317p and Aberdeen Asset Management up 8.9p to 393.9p.
The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Kingfisher down 12.2p to 272.9p, Wolseley off 62p to 2932p, Fresnillo 31p lower at 1750p and Weir Group down 32p to 1906p.