The leading share index held firm on Wednesday, propped up by firm results from tech giant Apple on Wall Street against the backdrop of weaker-than-expected GDP figures, which showed Britain officially entered recession.

A surprise drop in the UK's GDP figures, which showed Britain with two consecutive quarters of contraction, initially wiped almost 10 points off the FTSE 100 index <.FTSE>.

It later bounced back.

Technically we are in recession and that will get a lot of headlines, but fundamentally the UK is stronger than that, and if you look at some of the trends in more regular data like retail sales they are actually quite decent, said Daniel McCormack, strategist at Macquarie Securities Ltd.

I think the economy is stronger than the GDP figures suggest and the trajectory is up going forward.

The blue-chip index held firm, gaining steadily for a second consecutive session this week with a 0.2 percent rise by 1125 GMT, gaining 11.9 points to 5,721.57.

Traders said London-listed shares were underpinned by strong results from Apple , the world's most valuable technology company, after the firm said on Tuesday its second-quarter profit almost doubled after a jump in iPhone sales, soothing fears the device was past its best days for sharp growth.

Wednesday's rise on the FTSE 100 index was the second consecutive gain since Monday's near 2 percent slide as a Europe-wide selloff was prompted by political uncertainty in France and the resignation of the Dutch prime minister.

It was a shaky rally yesterday with low volumes, but whether the underlying problems seen earlier in the week are fixed is another matter, the Dutch don't have a government while the Spanish and the Italians are on the brink and we have a French election to deal with, said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG Index.

The leading index is holding its ground today as it is a more international focused index, the FTSE 250 was hit slightly more, but I think the Apple results last night added much confidence and results of the Fed meeting later in the day means stock markets are waiting to see what happens.

No changes are expected to come from the results of a U.S. Federal Reserve meeting due after the London markets' close at 1630 GMT.

Some investors, however, are hoping the U.S. central bank could hint at a third boost to liquidity in the future.


A strong performance from Apple , whose shares gained 9 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday, heightened expectations of a firmer open on Wall Street with U.S. stock futures <.SPc1> indicating a 0.7 percent gain.

In London, the Apple's strong performance also boosted its chip designer ARM Holdings , which saw its share price rise 4.2 percent, topping the list of FTSE 100 risers.

The British software company, was upgraded by broker Jefferies to hold from underperform on valuation grounds.

Firmer miners <.FTNMX1770> provided the biggest support for the blue chips, adding around 7 points to the index as investor appetite for risk-sensitive stocks returned, and with copper prices holding steady.

Integrated oils <.FTNMX0530> were also in demand as Brent crude ticked higher, holding above $118 a barrel, with a bullish note from Barclays Capital previewing the sector's first-quarter earnings season also helping.

Ex-dividend factors, stocks trading without their dividend entitlements, accounted for most of the top blue chip fallers, with Centrica falling 4.3 percent, Man Group dropping 1 percent, Reed Elsevier shedding 3.8 percent, and Tesco losing 2.8 percent by midday.

Investors await first-quarter results from British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline at 1200 GMT. GSK shares were trading 0.9 percent lower before the results.

(Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)