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FTSE 100 hits 22-month high as solid US results boost investor sentiment

BRITAIN’s top share index hit a 22-month closing high yesterday, as solid results from JP Morgan and Intel and strong US retail sales lifted hopes that a recovery in the world’s biggest economy is gaining momentum.

The FTSE 100 closed up 34.59 points, or 0.6 per cent, at 5,796.25 -- its highest close since June 2008.

The UK blue chip index has gained more than seven per cent this year, building on a 22 per cent rise in 2009.

Miners were in demand against a backdrop of firmer metals prices, and as investor appetite for risk improved, with Eurasian Natural Resources, Fresnillo and Xstrata the best off, up 2.4 to four per cent.

US bank JP Morgan Chase yesterdy reported a jump in first-quarter earnings, with investment banking revenues offsetting losses on consumer loans.

And Intel’s sales and margin forecasts far outpaced market expectations when they were released after Wall Street close on Tuesday.

Optimism about the economy had a positive knock-on effect on crude oil prices, which helped BP and Royal Dutch Shell put on 0.4 and 1.5 per cent respectively.

The JPMorgan results boosted UK banks. Barclays, Standard Chartered, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group were up 0.8-2.9 per cent.

Adding to optimism, sales at US retailers rose strongly in March.

UK chip company Arm Holdings gained 1.4 per cent in the wake of the Intel results, while Autonomy added 1.3 per cent.

Ex-dividend factors knocked 1.91 points off the FTSE 100 index, with BG Group, Capita, Legal & General and Tullow Oil all losing their payout attractions.