By Sarah Turner
Earnings from household-products producer Unilever and satellite-broadcasting firm British Sky Broadcasting helped British shares to post mild gains on Thursday.
The U.K. FTSE 100 index closed up 0.6%, or 31.23 points, to 5,617.84, after ending 0.3% lower on Wednesday.
Other European shares also ended higher, as worries about Greece and other peripheral European countries appeared to lift a bit while earnings from Siemens and others also helped.
U.S. stocks opened higher on Wall Street, extending gains from the previous session after the Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates at low levels.
"The soothing ointment of low interest rates provided by the Fed has helped calm some of the tremors on bourses," said Anthony Grech, strategist at IG Index.
Back in London, shares of Unilever (UL)(UN) jumped 3.3%. First-quarter net profit rose 31% to 1.1 billion euros ($1.4 billion) while sales climbed 6.7% to 10.1 billion euros.
Growth was supported by the introduction of brands like Cif, Domestos, Lifebuoy and Lipton into new markets, it added.
British Sky Broadcasting climbed 4.9%.
Its nine-month net attributable profit more than tripled to 542 million pounds ($825 million) from 169 million pounds a year earlier. Sales rose to 4.4 billion pounds from 4 billion pounds as net customers grew 62,000 in the quarter to reach 9.77 million.
"The business has continued to perform very well in what remains a tough consumer environment," said CEO Jeremy Darroch. BSkyB is roughly 40%-owned by News Corp., (NWSA)(NWS) the parent of MarketWatch.
Insurance and investments firm Standard Life rose 4.4%.
It said that net inflows increased to 2.1 billion pounds in the three months to March 31, compared with inflows of 600 million pounds at the same point a year earlier. Assets under administration rose 7% to 181.6 billion pounds in the first three months.
"We entered 2010 with good momentum and have had a strong start to the year, aided by the rise in markets," the firm said.
BP (BP) shares were the top decliner on the FTSE 100, closing down 6.5%. The firm continues to battle to contain an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and said efforts to control the spill are costing the owners of the Mississippi Canyon 252 well about $6 million a day. BP has a 65% interest in the well.
Natural-gas producer BG Group slipped 0.6%.
First-quarter profit declined to $960 million from $1 billion a year earlier but revenue rose to $4.5 billion from $4.3 billion.
The results reflect a 6% increase in E&P production volumes and higher oil and liquids prices, partly offset by lower realized gas prices in the E&P and LNG segments, the firm said.
Outside the top index, book and music retailer HMV Group declined 8.6%.
The firm said that sales in the 16 weeks to April 24 fell 5.8%. It said it's confident its fiscal-year adjusted pre-tax profit will meet expectations.
BBA Aviation shares lost 2.2%.
In its fiscal first-quarter to 31 March revenue was flat against the prior year and up 2% on an organic basis.
"Since the end of March trading has followed a similar trend to the first quarter of the year, although our European Flight Support businesses and ASIG U.S. were affected by the recent closure of European airspace. This is only expected to have a minor impact on our results," the firm said.