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Soaring Legal & General leads FTSE-100

Another batch of decent trading updates helped European markets make headway as the FTSE 100 Index climbed to an eight-week high.

Confidence in London was also boosted by more encouraging signs from the UK economy after the Office for National Statistics' first estimate for GDP in the opening three months of the year came in at 0.8%.

This was in line with recent trends and while slightly below City expectations the pound clung to recent gains to stand slightly higher against the US dollar at 1.68 and up by half a per cent versus the euro at nearly 1.22.

The FTSE 100 Index finished 69.7 points higher at 6769.9, while markets in Paris and Frankfurt were also up by a similar level.

The latest round of positive trading updates included annual results from Whitbread as the leisure group continued to reap the benefit of a strong performance from coffee shop chain Costa.

The company, which also owns Premier Inn, Brewers Fayre and Beefeater, rose 20p to 4081p after it said like-for-like sales at Costa surged 5.7% in the UK, leading to a 16.5% jump in group profits to £411.8 million.

BP, which has a 20% stake in Russia's Rosneft, rose 14.25p to 502.6p after first quarter profits were £1.9 billion, an improvement of 15% on the previous three months but down 23% on a year earlier.

The results met City expectations and included a second rise in the company's dividend within six months. Chief executive Bob Dudley said the figures represented a "very solid start" to the year, despite a cut in BP's share of profits from Rosneft by 75% to £161.3m.

The quarter-on-quarter decline was blamed on a slide in the value of the rouble caused by pressure on Russia's economy from the crisis in the Ukraine.

The pharmaceuticals sector was again in the spotlight amid speculation that Shire is in the takeover sights of US healthcare company Allergan. The Basingstoke-based company spent much of the session at the top of the risers board but later finished 23p lower at 3263p. AstraZeneca, which soared 14% on Monday after Pfizer confirmed its interest in a bid for the UK company, slipped 34p to 4632.5p.

Elsewhere, Barclays survived an initial hit seen after Deutsche Bank said first quarter profits fell 34% due to weakness in bond and foreign exchange trading.

The UK bank, which is due to publish its own figures next week, recovered to finish 1.25p higher at 250.25p.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Legal & General up 6.6p at 212.9p, Carnival ahead 73p at 2370p, Hargreaves Lansdown up 36p at 1187p and BG Group ahead 34.5p at 1180.5p.

The biggest fallers during this time period were Fresnillo down 15p at 849.5p, Travis Perkins off 24p at 1720p, Johnson Matthey down 36p at 3251p and G4S off 2p at 236.9p.

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