LONDON'S leading share index hit a new peak yesterday on a combination of reassuring US data and bullish UK corporate news.

Opening on the back of Thursday night's 83 point rise on Wall Street, the FT-SE 100 index was always likely to end the week on a stronger note.

And a bid by Abbey National for Scottish Amicable, combined with news of a triumvirate agreement between BSkyB, Carlton and Granada on digital television, gave an early boost. Further strengthening of the dollar against sterling gave some relief to hard pressed exporters and dollar earners.

Footsie closed 47.4 higher at 4,275.8, its high of the day and four points above its previous peak on January 23rd.

The second line FT-SE 250, which is less exposed to gains on Wall Street, lifted 22.8 to 4,595.4 but was still trailing some 20 points off its peak.

Ahead of a significant week for interest rate decisions and leading company results, strategists chose to focus on the inflation indicator of the US Gross Domestic Product. At an annualised 1.4 per cent it was sharply lower than consensus forecasts and comfortably offset the initial shock from the headline growth figure of 4.7 per cent.