Miners, banks and oil groups emerge as stars of the index

LONDON&rsquo;S top share index closed up 0.9 per cent yesterday, led by miners, banks and oil producers as impressive corporate data from the United States outweighed mixed economic figures.<br /><br />The FTSE ended 35.55 points higher at 4,237.68, extending Monday&rsquo;s 1.8 per cent gains. The index has risen more than 23 per cent since hitting a six-year low in March, but is still down 4.4 per cent for the year.<br /><br />Impressive figures from<strong> Goldman Sachs</strong>, Wall Street&rsquo;s largest surviving bank, and <strong>Johnson &amp; Johnson</strong> offset an unexpected jump in producer prices in the US, which came in at more than double economists estimates.<br /><br />&ldquo;Given the recent weakness in markets we have seen, the second-quarter results season should trigger a little bit of a mini rally. If we don&rsquo;t rally, then we could see the FTSE in sub-4,000 territory,&rdquo; said Paul Kavanagh, a partner at Killik &amp;Co.<br /><br />Banks gained positive momentum after Goldman Sachs said its quarterly earnings surged 33 per cent on strong trading results.<br /><br /><strong>Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group</strong> and <strong>Royal Bank of Scotland</strong> put on between 1.2 and 2.1 per cent.<br /><br />Miners were the top sector gainers as investor optimism of even higher metals prices drove stocks north.<br /><br /><strong>Fresnillo, Lonmin, Kazakhmys, Antofagasta, Xstrata</strong> and <strong>Rio Tinto</strong> added between 5.1 and 13.3 per cent.<br /><br />Insurers were also strong. <strong>Aviva, Friends Provident, Old Mutual</strong> and <strong>Prudential</strong> rose between 0.9 and 3.5 per cent.<br /><br />Energy stocks pushed higher, as crude CLc1 stayed above $60 a barrel. <strong>Cairn Energy, BP, BG Group</strong> and <strong>Tullow Oil</strong> climbed 0.4 to 4.9 per cent.<br /><br />Kavanagh said the focus will be on corporate earnings given the mixed picture of the wider economic outlook.<br /><br />The British Retail Consortium said retail sales rose in June and house prices in England and Wales fell at their slowest annual pace in almost two years last month.<br /><br />However, ministers in Britain took a more cautious tone.<br /><br />Chancellor Alistair Darling said there was still a lot of uncertainty, while business secretary Peter Mandelson said the fall in the economy was coming to an end but the &ldquo;severity, obviously is not yet behind us&rdquo;.<br /><br /><strong>Vodafone</strong> was the biggest single drag on the bluechips, down 1.9 per cent, after a downgrade from UBS to &ldquo;neutral&rdquo; from &ldquo;buy&rdquo; and a cut in the price target chilled appetite for the telecoms giant.