By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch)--British stocks reversed early losses to end with strong gains Thursday, finding support as miners rallied along with firmer metals prices and Wall Street moved solidly higher.
The FTSE 100 index rose 75.72 points, or 1.3%, to close at 5,710.46, after trading as low as 5,602.56 earlier in the day.
The index tracked gains in the broader European stock market and took off as stocks extended gains on Wall Street.
Miners boosted the U.K. stock market and followed solid gains for most metals prices. Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) added 4.5%, Fresnillo PLC gained 3%, BHP Billiton PLC (BHP) rose 2.7% and Kazakhmys PLC advanced 3.2%.
Banks also posted solid gains.
Barclays PLC (BCS) rallied 5.4% in London, Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LYG) jumped 4.3%, and HSBC Holdings PLC (HBC) added 1.3%.
Also supporting the U.K. index, GKN PLC jumped 6.2% after Credit Suisse lifted the stock to outperform from neutral.
Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC advanced 3%. The power-systems firm said it won a contract to supply power and propulsion systems for the two latest vessels in the U.S. Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program.
Temperature-control supplier Aggreko PLC climbed 3.1% after it said it started the year on a very strong note and underlying group revenue jumped 21% in first quarter.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) ended 0.5% lower, trimming a much sharper earlier loss after the oil firm said an oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico didn't originate from its operations in the area.
On the macroeconomic front, trade data for the U.K. showed that the nation's trade deficit widened in February to the highest level since September, as exports dropped.
"The U.K.'s scope for an export-led recovery took a further set back today, as the trade deficit widened unexpectedly," said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, in a note. "The monthly data are very volatile, but it is also disappointing to see the three-month trend--which acts as a more reliable guide to the trade pattern--also deteriorating."