FTSE indices ended the week on a positive note to herald in the four-day Easter weekend. Financial and retail stocks provided direction behind M&S' (MKS) comparatively heady gains. Wall St gained as the US trade deficit for February came in better than expected.

FTSE 100 closed up 23.96 points, or 0.35%, to 6833.46. FTSE 250 rose 145.42, or 0.85%, to 17,268.8. At 4.48pm, WTI crude was down 1.84% to $49.17/bbl, while Brent eased 3.24% to $55.25/bbl. Iran nuclear talks, Yemen bloodshed and Greek debt remain lingering distractions.

Marks & Spencer (MKS) led blue chips with a 4.48% rise to 554.25p on making strong progress in Q4 with sales, up 3.7%, and like-for-like sales, up 0.7%. Some distance behind were Sainsbury (SBRY), up 0.89% to 260.4p, and Tesco (TSCO), up 0.43% to 244.3p. Consumer-goods outfits and several retailers also made headway.

Financials were led up by Barclays (BARC), rising 2.19% to 254.75p and leading a string of banks. Man Group (EMG) led investment specialists with a 1.96% gain to 208p, while Old Mutual (OML) guided several insurers with its 0.98% hike to 227.4p. Tobacco stocks were also notable risers, as were property stocks.

Resources stocks remained ballast. Vedanta (VED) chaired with a 3.35% slide to 479.2p, followed by BHP Billiton (BLT) and Antofagasta (ANTO). Oil stocks drifted mildly lower, with Shell (RDSA) falling 0.31% to 2024.75p. Meantime, Diageo (DGE) rose 1.18% to 1890.5p on news it was acquiring the 50% of South Africa's United National Breweries' it doesn't already own.

BIGGER MOVERS

Arcontech Group (ARC) confirmed the signing of a new major client for a minimum of 200 licences for its real-time Excel add-in, Excelerator. Its shares rose 53.57% to 0.22p. Koovs (KOOV) fell 43.4% to 66.5p despite expecting FY sales to be up 268% at ã2.6m. The company said it would be seeking additional funding in due course to accelerate development.

Inetsco (INC) fell 52.94% to 0.04p after its nominated advisor, Cairn Financial Advisors, quit, effective May 1. It has a month to appoint a successor or have its shares cancelled. It is in talks with another nomad. Densitron Technologies (DSN), up 32.26% to 5.13p, has reached an agreement with the landlord of a property in Newcastle to surrender the lease for ã0.4m.

Forbidden Technologies (FBT) posted a FY loss of ã3.6m, from ã0.8m. Gross sales fell to ã0.69m, from ã0.77m. Its shares fell 16.67% to 7.5p. Bacanora Minerals (BCN) rose 12.9% to 87.5p as investors speculated over potential increased demand for its commodity.

Amphion Innovations (AMP) fell 21.54% to 6.38p after partner company Motif Bio has started trading on AIM under the ticker 'MTFB'. Amphion owns 44.09% of Motif's equity in addition to a convertible loan in the amount of $3.55m.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Stateside, the trade deficit fell to $35.4bn in February, from January's revised $42.7bn, US Census Bureau and the US Bureau of Economic Analysis said. Exports of $186.2bn were outweighed by imports of $221.7bn. A deficit contraction to $41.2bn was anticipated.

US factory orders rose 0.2% to $468.3bn in February, US Census Bureau said, following a 0.7% fall in January. A fall of 0.4% was forecast. US initial unemployment claims fell to 268,000 in the week to Mar. 28, down 20,000 from the previous week's revised 288,000.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Inspirit Energy (INSP), up 14.81% to 0.78p, reports progress on several fronts which represents significant advance for the business towards its goal of the commercialisation of its Kinematic Stirling Engine-based micro-combined heat and power (mCHP) technology.

Mosman Oil & Gas Ltd (MSMN), down 9.21% to 4.88p, is accelerating its drilling programme on its Murchison permit in New Zealand. It has also raised ã0.5m via a placing and subscription of 10m new shares at 5p each by SP Angel Corporate Finance LLP.

Frontier Resources (FRI), up 9.68% to 0.85p, has been given approval to exchange the phase 1 work commitment of a 3D seismic survey on Block 38 in Oman for an exploration well with a 2D seismic survey. Marshall Motor (MMH) accelerated to 161.5p in debut AIM dealings, having priced its IPO at 149p a share for a ã115m market cap.

Stanley Gibbons (SGI), down 6.2% to 249.5p, expects its FY results to be materially below market views due to a number of anticipated high-value retail sales ere not completed in the run up to year's end. Motive Television (MTV), down 33.7% to 0.02p, has placed 6.66bn new shares at 0.015p each to raise ã1m for funding the roll out of Tablet TV.

Solid State (SOLI), up 3.95% to 657.5p, said its FY results would, as anticipated, be significantly better than last year. However, pretax profit was expected to be at least in line with market expectations although revenue was likely to be slightly lower.

Tate & Lyle (TATE), up 2.96% to 626p, said based on Q4 trading it expect FY group adjusted pretax profit to be modestly below the range stated in September 2014 of ã230m-ã245m.

Stocks in the news included Dunelm's (DNLM), FW Thorpe (TFW), Redcentric (RCN), Compagnie de Saint-Gobain (COD), Akers Biosciences (AKR), North Midland Construction (NMD), Playtech (PTEC), Premier Oil (PMO), Falkland Oil (FOGL) and Rockhopper (RKH).