LONDON (Reuters) - Robust earnings and strength in resources-linked stocks helped Britain's top share index rise on Friday, sealing its best week in two months, with Pearson (>> Pearson plc) the standout performer.
Britain's blue chip FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index rose 0.7 percent, reversing earlier losses as the oil price paused its slide, supporting mining firms and energy stocks.
A series of well-received updates underpinned gains as the earnings season steamed ahead.
Education publisher Pearson (>> Pearson plc) was the top riser, soaring 12.4 percent following its first-quarter update.
Pearson, which has struggled to keep pace with the rise of digital content, issued five profit warnings in the space of four years. In its first-quarter results, the firm cheered investors with a plan to cut costs and a strategic review of its U.S. division.
Pearson's shares are still down around 9.8 percent year to date, however.
"Most of the optimism this morning appears, in our view, to come from the additional cost-saving plan initiative," said Neil Campling, head of TMT research at Northern Trust Capital Markets.
"While a positive move in theory, we continue to question why it has taken so long to take action, and why the same will still take almost three years to execute," Campling said, adding that the share price bounce seemed to reflect investors covering short positions on the stock.
Among other bright spots, British Airways-owner IAG (>> International Consolidated Airlns Grp SA) jumped 5.5 percent after posting a better-than-expected set of results, helping peer easyJet (>> easyJet plc) also rise 4.1 percent.
"IAG has reported solid 1Q earnings ... The main reasons were slightly better passenger yields and lower unit fuel costs," said Rob Byde, transport analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald.
"The outlook statement is limited but reiterates that the Group expects profits to improve year-on-year."
Marks & Spencer rose 4.7 percent after announcing retail veteran Archie Norman as its new chairman at a critical time for the company tackling weakness in its clothing division.
The materials sector added the most points to the index as oil prices edged higher after falling to a five-month low in the previous session on growing concerns about global oversupply.
Miners Glencore (>> Glencore PLC), Rio Tinto (>> Rio Tinto plc) and BHP Billiton (>> BHP Billiton plc) rose around 2 percent, while gold miners Fresnillo (>> Fresnillo Plc) and Randgold Resources (>> Randgold Resources Limited) jumped 4 percent and 4.3 percent respectively.
BP's (>> BP plc) shares were up 1.5 percent, while Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L> was up 2.1 percent.
On the mid-caps, satellite communications firm Inmarsat (>> Inmarsat Plc) sank 7.7 percent after Barclays and Berenberg downgraded the stock, after its first-quarter results on Thursday.
(Reporting by Kit Rees and Helen Reid; Editing by Toby Chopra)
By Kit Rees and Helen Reid
Stocks treated in this article : Pearson plc
, BHP Billiton plc
, Inmarsat Plc
, Fresnillo Plc
, International Consolidated Airlns Grp SA
, Glencore PLC
, Smith & Nephew plc
, Randgold Resources Limited
, BP plc
, Rio Tinto plc
, easyJet plc