* FTSE adds 0.6 percent
* Top index rises for ninth month in a row
* Gains supporting by U.S. Fed comments, data
* IAG surges 7.9 percent after beating expectations
By Alistair Smout
LONDON, Feb 28 Britain's top share index rose on
Thursday, extending its monthly winning streak to nine months,
buoyed by assurances from U.S. and European central banks that
they would continue to pursue supportive monetary policy.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed 34.93 points
higher, up 0.6 percent at 6,360.81, finishing up 1.3 percent on
the month and extending its longest monthly winning streak since
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sparked a rally
on Wall Street for the second day in a row on Wednesday after he
defended the Fed's asset purchases programme to the House
Committee in Congress. European Central Bank head Mario Draghi
issued a similarly "dovish" set of comments.
Bernanke's testimony to the Senate on Tuesday evening had
helped British stocks add 0.9 percent on Wednesday, recovering
from sharp falls following a stalemate in Italian elections.
"It's been good news for the bulls that the weakness we saw
at the start of the week hasn't lasted. We've seen some good
data out of the US, and the doves are still clearly in control
of the Fed," Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG Index, said.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment
benefits fell more than expected last week, suggesting some
traction in the labor market recovery, and revised GDP figures
showed that U.S. growth was positive in the last quarter of last
"With the recent economic data being ahead of expectations
and corporate data surprising to the upside, most of the dip
buying we have seen has been led by long term investors," said
Atif Latif, director of trading at Guardian Stockbrokers.
"They still understand in the search for yield the equity
market offers more upside than the negative real rate of return
from the fixed income market."
Year to date, the FTSE has gained 7.9 percent, with total
returns (including dividend payouts) of 8.4 percent. However,
foreign investors into British stocks have suffered at the hands
of weakening pound, with sterling depreciating 6.7 percent
against the dollar this year.
IAG TAKES OFF
Aiding gains was a 7.9 percent rise in International
Airlines Group, which topped the blue-chip leader
board, after its 2012 operating loss of 68 million euros ($89.14
million) came in better than consensus.
Rik Thakrar, senior dealer at Spread Co, says his clients
remain buyers of IAG, and clearly anticipated further gains.
"Willie Walsh stated that the company intends to continue
with its large scale restructuring plan, thereby diverting much
of its resources to more profitable routes," he said.
Banking stocks notched up solid gains on the
central banks' reaffirmation of a dovish stance. Royal Bank of
Scotland was the notable exception after disappointing
results from the part-nationalised lender.
RBS shed 6.6 percent, among the top FTSE 100 fallers, after
the bank made a pretax loss of 5.2 billion pounds, hit by a 4.6
billion charge for losses on the value of its own debt.
Copper miner Kazakhmys was the top faller, dropping
8.6 percent after warning it could be forced to take a charge
estimated at over $1.5 billion on the value of its holding in
Kazakh peer ENRC.
(Additional reporting by David Brett; editing by Ron Askew)