Banks led a recovery in Britain's top share index on Wednesday, boosted by forecast-busting results from French peer BNP Paribas and after a pledge by China that it will keep investing in euro zone debt.

News that the Greek Conservative Party's leader had sent a letter of commitment to austerity measures to the Eurogroup also helped sentiment.

(With Greece) it is beginning to feel like we're in the final furlong -- that because so much work has been done behind the scenes that a resolution, whatever that resolution may be, is much nearer than it has been so far, said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown.

Banks recovered their poise after Tuesday's sharp falls and were the biggest gainers by some margin after the results from BNP, France's biggest listed bank, particularly in view of earlier fears relating to the country's exposure to Greece.

Broker commentary was behind a number of other share price moves.

Essar Energy was among the top blue-chip risers, up 2.1 percent, with traders citing the impact of an upgrade from Morgan Stanley to equal-weight on valuation grounds, ahead of full-year results due on Feb. 27, although the bank still sees some near-term downside.

A broker downgrade weighed on Anglo American, off 0.5 percent. Citigroup cut its rating on the miner to neutral, also on valuation grounds, and moved to a bearish stance on the wider sector on a 3-6 month view.

European broadcasters were weak, with Britain's ITV, 1.3 percent weaker, as Deutsche Bank turned more negative on the sub-sector in a review, citing a turn in the cycle.

The lesson of prior cycles is to own the broadcaster stocks in the early phase of any market rally. Thereafter underperformance sets in and these are not stocks to own through the cycle, Deutsche Bank said in a note.

The UK benchmark was up 18.55 points, or 0.3 percent, at 5,918.42 by 1251 GMT, close to six-month highs.

But progress was hampered by ex-dividend factors, which knocked 22.57 points off the index, with AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Unilever all losing their payout attractions.

Phil Roberts, chief European technical strategist at Barclays Capital, is cautiously optimistic on the FTSE 100, arguing that while it could hover around the 5,800-5,900 in the short term, there is potential for further upside.

It's struggling a tiny bit up here, but the main thing is that it's still consolidating above its January range highs.

MAM fund manager Simon Callow said he was very cautious on the FTSE 100 in the medium term and reckons it will struggle to break out of the 6,000 level before July, hampered by concerns about Greek austerity measures.

He has been taking money out of the fund's equity pot, locking in profits in life insurers and oil services companies after a period of strong performance and betting instead on bonds.

(The austerity measures) can be agreed at the top level in Greece, but the population (might) not carry the agreement, and that's what's scaring the market now I think, said Callow, manager of the CF Midas Balanced Growth Fund, which has 224 million pounds of assets under management.