Britain's top share index rose on Tuesday in cautious trade ahead of a Spanish debt auction later in the session, with Barclays leading banks higher on the back of bullish broker comment.

The UK blue chip index <.FTSE> was 26.13 points, or 0.5 percent higher at 5,692.41 at 0751 GMT, having added 0.3 percent on Monday helped by narrow gains from defensive stocks and after positive U.S. retail sales data, although rising debt yields for Spain kept banks on the backfoot.

It appears that investors may be holding fire ahead of Spain's (debt) auctions which begin today, Ian Williams, UK equity strategist at Peel Hunt, said.

Sector leadership ... is still difficult to find but the upward revisions and low risk styles continue to make steady, if modest, progress, he said.

The FTSE has strong support around 5,580 where various technical levels including a trend line, a Fibonacci level and the 200-day moving average intersect.

A technical analyst said in the short term the index had room to move up to the 50-day moving average around the 5,860 level but he said he saw little sustained support beyond there.

In an equity strategy note, UBS said it was too early to raise cyclical risk aggressively, despite the market paring early 2012 gains.

It advises buying into defensives at a reasonable price, with pharmaceuticals, media and household products at the top of its wanted list.

Media firm ITV rose 2.1 percent after Exane BNP Paribas upgraded the company to outperform from neutral on growing confidence of ITV's capacity to beat consensus expectations.

ITV should benefit more broadly from the BBC's cost-cutting plan. In addition, advertising trends in Europe are reshuffling market positions between pubcasters, commercial FTA and pay-TV operators, Exane BNP Paribas said in a note.

Banks <.FTNMX8350> bounced after falls over the previous two trading days. Barclays was the top gainer up 3.7 percent as BofA Merrill Lynch floated the idea that earnings upgrades could be on the horizon for the UK lender.

After a multi-period downgrade cycle we think Barclays has turned a corner driven by improving FICC revenues, positive operating leverage and an improving core banking franchise, BofA Merrill Lynch said in a note.

With Eurozone fears hitting the shares recently, we think the 1Q results could re-focus investors to the fundamental attractions, it said.

Royal Banks of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group gained as much as 2 percent.

RETAILERS RETREAT

British luxury brand Burberry Group fell 3.9 percent as it met forecasts with an 18 percent rise in second half sales.

Burberry's shares have outshone the benchmark FTSE 100 in 2012, rising 33.8 percent as investors have turned to the company's growth characteristics spurred by exposure to Asian markets.

Merchant Securities, however, cut its rating on Burberry to hold from buy on valuation grounds.

Bellwether British retailer Marks & Spencer shed 2.7 percent as it missed forecasts for underlying fourth quarter sales, with growth in food sales failing to offset a weaker outcome in general merchandise.

A disappointing performance from general merchandise has given profit takers the invitation they needed, a London-based trader said.

Miners <.FTNMX1770> fell as Rio Tinto reported worse-than-expected falls in iron ore, copper and coal production in the first quarter, highlighting investors' concerns over the outlook for the sector.

On the macroeconomic data front, UK inflation data is due out at 0830 GMT. U.S. housing data is scheduled for release at 1230 GMT and industrial output figures at 1315 GMT.

(Written by David Brett; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)