The FTSE 100 Index edged past the 6000 mark for the first time since June 2008 in a last minute push before the market closed.
The Footsie closed 12.58 points up at 5996.07, shortly after hitting a high of 6000.55, as traders gathered pace in a year-end Santa Rally.
But with trading volumes thin ahead of the Christmas holidays and little in the way of corporate or UK economic news, stocks struggled to push higher.
Investors were subdued by economic data from the US, which revealed a bigger-than-expected drop in durable-goods orders and a smaller-than-projected increase in consumer spending for November. The weak data undermined the US dollar, which fell against the pound to 1.54. The pound was also up against the euro at 1.17.
A threat by North Korea to embark on a “sacred war” against the South using nuclear weapons also shook confidence, but not enough to stop the FTSE 100 hitting that all-important mark.
Oil giant BP was among the blue chip stocks making gains in London, climbing 6.7p to 476.7p, after oil prices approached a two-year high, boosted by data showing a drop in US oil stocks ahead of an unexpected surge in global demand.
Retailers were also prominent on the risers board, with hopes high to mark the busiest shopping day in the UK as consumers scramble to make last-minute Christmas purchases. Marks & Spencer rose 1.4p to 374.4p, while B&Q parent Kingfisher added 5.6p to 263.7p and supermarket Sainsbury’s lifted 4.7p to 381.7p.
The travel sector has felt the pinch of the cold weather as well, as traders were shaken by the impact that flight cancellations would have on the industry. British Airways fell 0.4p to 273.2p, but TUI Travel raced to the top of the risers’ board and added 6p to 247.5p.
Capita Group shares gained 3.5p to 708.5p after the outsourcing giant unveiled two takeover deals worth a combined £128.5 million as it ramps up acquisitions. The firm bought SunGard Public Sector Holdings for £86 million and snapped up hotel booking and meetings management agency BSI for £42.5 million.
The biggest Footsie risers were TUI Travel up 6p at 247.5p, Kingfisher ahead 5.6p at 263.7p, Next up 36p at 2007p, and Vodafone ahead 2.95p at 172.5p. The biggest fallers were Intertek down 47p at 1814p, ARM Holdings off 10.5p at 429.8p, Kazakhmys down 20p at 1613p and Fresnillo off 18p at 1584p.