Afternoon markets: FTSE closes at three-week high

The FTSE 100 index closed at a three-week high, ending the week above 5,500 level for the first time since the second week of November.

The blue chip index closed at 5,539 up 0.9% on its opening level of 5,489, and the highest closing price since 5,545 on November 11.

The index had received a booster shot during the week after sic central banks pledged to ensure liquidity remained in the system and was further buoyed by more positive noises regarding the eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

Talks regarding closer fiscal union for eurozone members and a drop in unemployment in the US boosted investors at the end of the week.

The biggest riser at the close of trading was Barclays, rising 7.6% to 190.65p, while interdealer broker ICAP increased by 7.2% to 369p, Essar Energy also climbed 7.2% higher to 245.4p.

Engineer Amec added 6.9% to its share price, rising to 943p, as Lloyds Banking Group rose 5.8% to 25.39p.

The biggest fallers were dominated by utilities companies, led by Severn Trent, which dropped 3.5% to 1,498p.

SSE fell 3.3% to 1,274p and National Grid slipped 3.2% to 607.5p. Also at the bottom were supermarket chain Morrisons and BT, both dropping 1.9% to 316.7p and 185.5p, respectively.

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