The FTSE 100 <.FTSE> was up nearly 0.5 percent on the day, bringing it into positive territory for the week after its performance was dented by worries over turmoil in U.S. President Donald Trump's administration that sent stocks tumbling across the globe.
Investors looked through the political uncertainty to a better earnings season and improved UK retail sales data which pointed to a brighter outlook for consumer-facing stocks.
"Generally earnings have been better than expected," said Laura Foll, head of the UK equity fund at Henderson.
"The retail sales data that came out yesterday was slightly higher than people were expecting, so there's also some relief after the March data which was quite weak."
Blue-chips hovered just below the fresh record high set on Tuesday.
While flows data shows investors have been piling into European equities, with a preference for the region accentuated since the French election, British stocks could be snubbed due to Brexit fears bubbling under the surface.
"The UK hasn't benefited from the inflows that Europe has," said Foll.
Miners Rio Tinto (>> Rio Tinto plc) and Anglo American (>> Anglo American plc) underpinned gains on the index, up 2.1 to 2.4 percent.
Hikma (>> Hikma Pharmaceuticals Plc) shares recovered from early losses to end 2.5 percent higher, after the drugmaker trimmed its revenue forecast for the year to reflect the delayed launch of its generic drug Advair.
"Despite the ongoing difficulties in delivering the potential of its Roxane acquisition, we remain confident of Hikma's long-term potential, with generic Advair, first to file Zytiga and first to file Xyrem opportunities still to come," said Stifel analysts.
Hikma fell 8 percent last week after U.S. regulators denied approval for Advair, citing "major" issues with the application.
A broad-based recovery pushed the FTSE higher, but some stocks bucked the trend.
Engineering conglomerate Smiths (>> Smiths Group plc) fell 2.8 percent after its chief financial officer stepped down.
"The timing is poor: just as FX tailwinds recede and industrials come under some pressure, the uncertainty this creates does in the short term dent the safe haven status we believe some investors accord Smiths," Stifel analysts said.
The world's biggest credit data company, Experian (>> Experian plc), fell 1.7 percent after Jefferies cut the stock to 'hold', citing slowing U.S. credit momentum.
Experian extended the previous session's losses, when allegations against Brazil's president roiled markets and sent it and other stocks exposed to the Latin American country down.
Among mid-caps, tour operator Thomas Cook Group (>> Thomas Cook Group plc) fell 2.9 percent after Barclays cut the stock to equal weight, citing a strong recent run, challenging market environment and concerns about the UK consumer.
A 'strong buy' from broker Raymond James pushed engineering and defence firm Senior (>> Senior plc) up 6.5 percent, making it the top mid-cap gainer.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
By Helen Reid