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U.K. Stocks Climb; Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland Shares Rise

U.K. stocks climbed to a 22-month high, led by banking shares as faster-than-estimated growth in China and rising industrial production in the U.S. boosted confidence in the economic recovery.

Barclays Plc paced gains as Exane BNP Paribas upgraded the industry and names the U.K.’s second-biggest lender as among its “favorite picks” for European banks. Dana Petroleum Plc, a U.K. oil and gas explorer, advanced 3.1 percent after saying it made a “significant” gas discovery in the North Sea.

The benchmark FTSE 100 Index advanced 28.76, or 0.5 percent, to 5,825.01 at the close in London, its highest level since June 2008. The FTSE All-Share Index rose 0.5 percent and Ireland’s ISEQ Index retreated 0.6 percent.

The FTSE 100 has rallied 7.6 percent this year as the European Union agreed a $61 billion aid package to help Greece tackle the region’s biggest budget deficit and the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged to maintain record-low interest rates for an extended period to secure the economic recovery.

“There are still open questions but fundamental economic data has been very strong lately,” said Rolf Biland, Zurich- based chief investment officer at VZ Holding AG, which oversees about $5.7 billion. “We are in a recovery scenario.”

U.S. manufacturers are charging ahead as sales and inventories grow, spearheading an economic recovery that shows scant signs of lifting labor markets. Factory production climbed 0.9 percent after rising 0.2 percent in February, the Federal Reserve said today in Washington. Regional data indicated the gains extended into this month, while figures from the Labor Department showed unemployment claims climbed unexpectedly last week to the highest level in two months.

Growth, Confidence

China’s economic growth accelerated to 11.9 percent in the first quarter, the fastest pace in almost three years, highlighting overheating risks that may prompt the government to scrap the yuan’s peg to the dollar.

U.K. consumer confidence fell in March by the most since July 2008 as the election due within weeks fueled Britons’ doubts about the economy, Nationwide Building Society said.

The index of sentiment fell 9 points from February to 72, erasing the gains in confidence seen so far this year, the customer-owned lender said in an e-mailed statement today. A gauge measuring expectations for the economy in the next six months fell 11 points to 105.

Barclays, RBS

Barclays, Britain’s second-largest bank, climbed 2.6 percent to 383.15 pence. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc advanced 2.3 percent to 45.95 pence. HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest bank, rallied 3 percent to 712.5 pence. Exane upgraded the European banking industry to “neutral” from “underweight,” according to a report sent to clients today.

“The downside risks are now limited relative to the market as a whole,” Exane strategists led by Bert Jansen wrote in the report.

Dana Petroleum advanced 3.1 percent to 1,308 pence after saying it made a “significant” gas discovery at the Platypus prospect in the U.K. southern North Sea.

BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining company, lost 0.9 percent to 2,266.5 pence.

Experian Plc fell 2.9 percent to 616.5 pence. The world’s largest credit-checking company said second-half revenue growth, excluding acquisitions and currency swings, slowed as sales in the U.K. and Ireland contracted.

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