Markets: RBS joins the Footsie risers’ board

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BRITAIN’S top shares closed higher yesterday after US manufacturing data showed the recovery in the world’s biggest economy was gaining traction and Royal Bank of Scotland led a sector rally on the back of a broker upgrade.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 24.9 points or 0.4 per cent at 5,965.6, finishing just above the 2012 closing high set on Tuesday. Markets were boosted by news that US factories stepped up production in February for the third straight month, driving the best job growth since the recession ended. However, an attack on the 6,000 mark may require good news closer to home.

Oliver Wallin, investment director at Octopus Investments, said: “Although the US remains the bright spot we would like to see some more broad-based positive data before becoming more bullish on the outlook for global equities and other risk assets,”

Big banks were more upbeat, however, as they turned bullish on stocks in relation to other asset classes. Swiss lender UBS raised its British GDP estimates for 2012 and 2013, and upgraded its rating on Royal Bank of Scotland to a “buy”, saying it was a clear recovery play on Britain and the United States.

That put RBS near the top of the risers’ board, up 6.3 per cent, or 1.7p to 28.1p. The wider sector was also in favour, with Lloyds up 1p to 37.5p and Barclays adding 4.8p to 254p.

The encouraging picture of the US economy also triggered a rally in the demand-sensitive resources sector, with miner Rio Tinto up 31p at 3,578.5p, Eurasian Natural Resources ahead 6.5p at 684p and Anglo American adding 36.5p at 2,618p.

News of surging sales at John Lewis and Waitrose helped the retail sector. Marks & Spencer rose 2 per cent or 5.9p to 381p and Next added 34p to 2,935p.

New York: The S&P 500 wrapped up its best week in three months with slight gains last night as US investors continued to push equities near four-year highs.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 20.14 points, or 0.15 per cent, to finish at 13,232.62 while the broader S&P 500 Index gained 1.57 points, or 0.11 per cent, to close at 1,404.17, its highest level since 20 May, 2008. The Nasdaq Composite dipped 1.11 points, or 0.04 per cent, to end at 3,055.26.