STRONG corporate earnings numbers and improving economic data from the US lifted the blue chip share index by 2.6 per cent to its highest close in four weeks yesterday.<br /><br />Led by energy firms and banks, the FTSE 100 index ended up 108.78 points at 4,346.46, its third day of gains. The UK benchmark is up 5.3 per cent this week, on track for its best weekly gain in two months.<br /><br />Computer chip manufacturer <strong>Intel</strong> maintained the positive tone of US second-quarter earnings with better-than-expected results, following upbeat figures from <strong>Goldman Sachs</strong>. The market was also buoyed by a key regional US factory survey which posted its strongest reading in a year this month, and data showing US industrial output declined at a slower pace in June.<br /><br />Analysts said market directions will likely be dictated by a slew of corporate earnings from the United States this week. “We have got a number of global giants still to report later this week and the balance of the second quarter results still remains very important,” said Keith Bowman, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.<br /><br />Energy firms added the most points to the UK index as crude oil rose to $60.85 after data showed a fall in gasoline stocks.<br /><br /><strong>Tullow Oil</strong> topped the energy stock risers, up 5.1 per cent as it announced its Jubilee field phase 1 development plan had been formally approved by the minister of energy in Ghana.<br /><br /><strong>Cairn Energy, Royal Dutch Shell, BP</strong> and <strong>BG Group</strong> gained between 2.3 and 3.1 per cent. The FTSE 100 has clawed back almost 26 per cent from an all-time low hit on 9 March but is down 2 per cent for the year.<br /><br />Banks were also in positive territory by the close of play, led by a 4.8 per cent gain in Barclays. The bank is still considering the sale of its private equity business.<br /><br /><strong>HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland</strong> and <strong>Standard Chartered</strong> added between 1.5 and 4 per cent.<br /><br />Higher metals prices lifted mining firms with <strong>Fresnillo, Kazakhmys, Eurasian Natural Resources, Lonmin</strong> and <strong>Xstrata</strong> rising between 2.6 and 5.6 per cent.<br /><br /><strong>Rio Tinto</strong> gained 4.2 per cent after the company said iron ore output in the second quarter was up 8 per cent on a year earlier.<br /><br /><strong>Land Securities</strong>, the real estate company, said it was preparing for new buys in the battered UK commercial property market – its shares added 4.5 per cent.