LONDON - Strength in mining stocks helped Britain's top share index recover on Tuesday to levels not seen since before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, though banks were weak.
At 1208 GMT (7:08 a.m. EST), the FTSE 100 was 40.44 points, or 0.8 percent, higher at 5,442.85, gaining for a fifth straight session, with trading volumes extremely light as traders began returning to work after the festive break.
The blue-chip index ended up 30.03 points or 0.6 percent on its last previous trading session on December 24, with gains that week at almost 4 percent.
The States and Asia have done pretty well on their normal weekend if you like, and I think that London's just getting up to speed again, said Tim Hughes, head of sales trading at IG Index.
Miners, buoyed by firmer metals prices, added the most points to the index, with Vedanta Resources, Lonmin, Xstrata and BHP Billiton among the biggest FTSE 100 risers, putting on 2 to 3.2 percent.
Kazakhmys put on 2.5 percent. The Kazakh copper producer has secured a bigger-than-expected $2.7 billion loan from China in a sign of strengthening ties between the two countries, the head of Kazakhstan's state welfare fund said.
The UK benchmark has rallied about 57 percent since hitting a six-year trough in March and is up about 23 percent for the year, on track for its biggest yearly gain since 1997.
Real estate stocks also featured on the blue chip leaders board as bargain hunters homed in on a sector seen by analysts as among the most undervalued.
Britain's largest shopping mall owner Liberty International was the biggest FTSE 100 riser, up 3.7 percent, as people crammed the stores, lured by post-Christmas sales.
Segro, British Land and Hammerson put on 2.4 to 3.2 percent.
Banks proved the biggest sectoral drag on the FTSE 100, retreating after notching up sharp gains before the holiday period, with heavyweight HSBC off 0.5 percent and Barclays down 0.4 percent.
Royal Bank of Scotland, however, rose 1.3 percent, while Lloyds Banking Group and Standard Chartered both added 0.4 percent.
A Financial Times analysis of official market data has revealed that the last 10 years have seen the lowest rate of economic growth in Britain in the post-war period, and the worst set of returns for investors on the stock market since the Great Depression.
The analysis, drawn from data supplied by the Office for National Statistics, showed that in real terms GDP rose on average by 1.7 percent annually over the decade, which represents the worst economic expansion since the 1940s.
Among individual fallers, British Airways dropped 0.9 percent, dented by concerns about increased airport security as a result of an attempted terrorist attack on a U.S. Northwest Airlines flight over the Christmas period, and with another strike vote looming by BA's cabin staff.
Investors will watch for the U.S. Case Shiller house price survey due for release at 1400 GMT (9 a.m. EST) and U.S. consumer confidence data released at 1500 GMT (10 a.m. EST).
(Additional reporting by Simon Falush; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)