By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- British stocks climbed out of negative territory on Thursday, as miners rallied along with firmer metals prices, while shares in Royal Dutch Shell PLC dropped following reports of an oil sheen in the Gulf of Mexico.
The FTSE 100 index added 0.8% to 5,678.35, 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 opened higher on Wall Street.
Miners boosted the U.K. stock market and followed solid gains for most metals prices. Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) added 4.2%, Fresnillo PLC gained 2.7%, BHP Billiton PLC (BHP) rose 2.6% and Kazakhmys PLC advanced 2.9%.
Also supporting the U.K. index, GKN PLC added 4.8% after Credit Suisse lifted the stock to outperform from neutral.
Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC took on 2.1%. 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 2.8% as it said it started the year on a very strong note and underlying group revenue jumped 21% in first quarter.
Adding pressure in London, Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) gave up 1.3% after the firm said late Wednesday that a light oil sheen had been observed in the central portion of the Gulf of Mexico, where the oil group operates. Shell said it has sent an oil-spill response vessel to the location and has requested flights to monitor the area. The source of the sheen is unknown.
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."