Dividend cheer for the three million shareholders of Lloyds Banking Group and other solid corporate news helped prop up the London market.
The benchmark FTSE 100 Index lifted to a new intra day high of 6,967.2 points in the afternoon session after lower US growth figures reduced the chance of a rate hike. This new record is just above a previous all-time high of 6,958.89 points hit on Tuesday.
But the top flight lost some of its momentum to close 3.07 points weaker at 6,946.66.
Lloyds posted a four-fold rise in annual profits and was joined by British Airways-owner International Airlines Group after it flagged stronger earnings this year.
Lloyds shares rose by half a penny to 79p and are now trading comfortably above the price the UK government paid in its 2008 bailout as the group said it will hand £535 million to its shareholders in a first dividend in seven years.
David Madden, market analyst at IG, said: “Lloyds announced a dividend of 0.75p, which may not be much but at least the bailed-out bank has proven that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
International Airlines Group, which has been lifted by the turnaround of Spanish carrier Iberia, was almost 4 per cent higher after it upped its profits guidance for this year. Shares rose 20.5p to 580p.
Other Footsie risers included Standard Chartered as investors continued to return to the stock following the boardroom shake-up involving the departures of both chief executive Peter Sands and chairman Sir John Peace. The stock was more than 1.5 per cent higher, up 15p to 991p.
William Hill posted one of the biggest falls in the FTSE 250 after it revealed that a bad weekend of football results in January cost it £13 million. The stock was 3 per cent lower, off 12.8p to 377.7p.