FTSE 100 bounce back led by banks

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The <strong>FTSE 100</strong> lifted in early trading today as<strong> banking stocks </strong>led the way.<br />
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The recovery came
after a poor session yesterday with the euro zone debt crisis casting a shadow over European markets.<br />
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<strong>Citigroup</strong> upgraded <strong>HSBC</strong> to "buy" from "hold", fuelling more confidence in the banking sector. <strong>Barclays</strong> also climbed as the London Stock Exchange opened. <br />
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<strong>European stocks</strong> in general recovered as forecast-beating results from US aluminium major <strong>Alcoa</strong> - the first major company to report in the country's earnings season - sparked hopes that the global economy was getting back on its feet. <br />
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Investors were also cheered by news that <strong>Japan</strong> was considering buying about 20 per cent of <strong>euro zone bonds</strong> to be jointly issued later in January to raise funds to support debt-swamped Ireland. <br />
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Japan's move was key to the buoying of markets as <strong>Portugal</strong> seemed to be teetering on the brink of a bailout, with euro zone kingpins <strong>Germany</strong> and <strong>France</strong> jittery over the country's debt woes. <br />
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Meanwhile <strong>Hong Kong shares</strong> rose overnight as<strong> North Asian markets</strong> outperformed others in the region, with optimism over economic growth and corporate activity offsetting investor concerns over euro zone debt. The <strong>Hang Seng</strong> reversed two days of declines, rising 0.99 per cent to 23,760.34. <br />
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In <strong>UK economic data</strong> released today <strong>retail sales</strong> fell in December for the first time since last April as heavy snow and concerns about the economic outlook deterred consumers. <br />
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<strong>The British Retail Consortium</strong> (BRC) said the value of sales dipped 0.3 per cent in December from a year earlier on a like-for-like basis, following a 0.7 per cent rise in November. <br />
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The figures were released as high street heavyweight <strong>M&amp;S</strong> reported a 2.8 per cent rise in like-for-like sales in the 13 weeks to 1 January, including a record day for food sales. However, it echoed the sentiments of other retailers, warning that austerity measures would mean 2011 would be a tough year.
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