LONDON British equities set fresh 5-year peaks on Friday, posting their fourth successive weekly gain, after key U.S. jobs data showed improvement in the world's top economy and leaving the door open to more stock gains.
With FTSE 100 .FTSE companies generating around a quarter of their revenues in the United States, and with the Britain on the verge of its third recession in four years, the health of the U.S. economy is key for British corporate earnings.
The 236,000 rise in U.S. non-farm payrolls in February far outstripped the 160,000 consensus and beat even the most optimistic economists' forecasts. But January's figures were revised down and the jobless rate eased only slightly, backing the case for continued stimulus from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The figures propelled the FTSE 100 to yet new 5-year peaks at 6,489.54 points, although the market trimmed some of the gains in afternoon trade to close at 6,483.58 points - up 44.42 points or 0.7 percent for the day and 1.6 percent for the week.
"Some of our clients were just taking the opportunity to bank some profits," said Vinay Sharma, trader at Gekko Capital Markets. "But people think there is still plenty of move left in this market and we could be testing that 6,500 level on the FTSE sometime next week."
A relatively strong 2012 earnings season has also helped the British market, with only 31 percent of FTSE 100 companies missing earnings expectations against 51 percent of the euro zone blue chips in the EuroSTOXX 50 index .STOXX50E, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.
Companies with significant revenue exposure to North America, such as Vodafone (VOD.L), BAE Systems (BAES.L) and Wolseley (WOS.L) were among the top gainers.
High beta sectors like industrial metals .FTNMX1750 and banks .FTNMX8350 also did well, boosted by broad strength in risk appetite ahead of the U.S. data, which pushed implied volatility on the FTSE 100 to six week lows .VFTSE.
Chinese data offered some support, with a surge in exports signaling an improvement in the global economy and offsetting some weaker import numbers.
Russian steel maker Evraz (EVRE.L) - traditionally volatile due to its relatively low free float of only around 18 percent of outstanding shares - was one of the key beneficiaries of the Chinese data, adding 5.6 percent after recent price weakness.
Russia supplies raw steel to China, which is then processed and exported, so strong Chinese exports could bode well for future demand for Evraz.
For the FTSE 100, the latest gains have taken the index into oversold territory - above 70 - on the 14-day relative strength index (RSI). But Clive Lambert, technical analyst at Trading Central, said it was too soon to anticipate a correction.
"We are watching our charts for signs that the market is topping out, and at the moment we are not seeing that, so we are sticking with the trend," he said.
"Your next resistance is 6,610 points, and then a really big one above that is 6,750. We haven't got a lot of resistance showing on our charts over the next 100 ticks."
(Reporting By Toni Vorobyova)