U.K. stocks closed a volatile day in positive territory on Wednesday, as energy majors rallied on the back of rising oil prices and retailer Next jumped after an upbeat trading report. Weakness in the pound also boosted the British stock market, with sterling falling after weaker-than-expected data on the U.K. construction sector. The FTSE 100 index ended 0.3% higher at 7,671.11, partly reversing a 0.5% loss from Tuesday, the first trading session of the year. The pound retreated to $1.3518 from $1.3589 late Tuesday in New York, when sterling traded around its highest level since late September. The blue-chip benchmark traded as low as 7,640.53, hanging around the flatline earlier in the day, but bounced higher in the afternoon as the London-listed oil companies tracked a rally in crude prices. West Texas Intermediate oil jumped 1.7% to $61.40 and Brent rose 1.4% to $67.46—both trading around their highest levels in 2 1/2 years—as anti-government protests continued in Iran. The riots, which have left more than 20 people dead, are feared to lead to potential disruptions to crude output from OPEC’s third-largest producer, which would limit global oil supply.
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