Integrated oils pushed the FTSE higher on Thursday, boosted by robust crude prices, in thin volumes on the last full trading day of the year for the UK's benchmark index.

The UK equity market closes at 12:30 p.m. BT on Friday and reopens on Tuesday January 3.

London's blue chips <.FTSE> closed up 59.37 points, or 1.1 percent, at 5,566.77 in volumes just 36 percent of the 90-day average and supported by a rebound on Wall Street as the UK market ended the day.

U.S. stocks rose after data showed trends in employment -- a key component of the economic recovery -- pointed to improving conditions in the labour market.

Investors had been a little bit tentative ahead of the U.S. open given yesterday's fall away from key technical levels (S&P 200-day MA at 1,260), but a firmer open provided a boost for those UK investors willing to do any trading, Jimmy Yates, head of equities at CMC Markets, said.

From a technical point of view, the 5,600 (early December highs) on the FTSE 100 remains the year-end target for the bulls. The index looks to have cleared the short-term resistance at around 5,550.

Integrated oils <.FTNMX0530> were the main driving force behind the session's gains, supported by firm oil prices, with Royal Dutch Shell up around 1.9 percent.

Brent crude held near $107 a barrel, still showing the impact of Iran's threat to block flows through the Straits of Hormuz, a vital trade route.

Integrated oils have outshone other cyclicals such as banks <.FTNMX8350> and miners <.FTNMX1770> in 2011, with the sector supported by the resilient oil price and its defensive characteristics in the face of global economic worries.

What we typically find in recessions is that at a certain point (the oil and gas sector) takes very defensive characteristics in terms of cash flow, dividend and visibility and that's what we're really seeing now, said Gary Baker, managing director and head of European equity strategy, BofA Merrill Lynch.


Key concerns surrounding global economic growth look set to dominate into 2012. In a recent Thomson Reuters poll CMC Markets forecast the FTSE 100 would close 2012 at around 5,000.

Worries over the international economic outlook have been reflected in banks' unwillingness to lend -- a key driver for those countries seeking the growth needed to reduce the debt piles which are threatening to bring on recession.

Banks appeared reluctant to get involved in government debt auctions, as bond yields in deeply indebted euro zone countries such as Spain and Italy remain dangerously high, with lenders preferring to reserve cash to protect balance sheets.

Shares in lenders rose, albeit from low levels, with Lloyds Banking Group up 1.9 percent.

In the face of global economic worries, investors continue to back defensive stocks, which have largely outperformed the FTSE 100's 6 percent fall in 2012.

Imperial Tobacco was up 0.5 percent, drugmaker Shire gained 1.5 percent while heavyweight Vodafone , liked for its dividend, was 1.4 percent higher.