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US retail boost lifts stock markets

Stock markets continued their revival today as US retail sales came in better than expected and European markets reacted favourably to the short-selling ban imposed overnight.

The FTSE 100 Index in London added more than 2%, with markets in Europe also higher. The CAC-40 in Paris jumped by 2.5% while the Dax in Frankfurt was 2% higher.

European markets started to recover yesterday after it was confirmed that French president Nicholas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel would meet next Tuesday to discuss the eurozone's financial problems.

Last night, European authorities took further action to bolster financial markets by banning short-selling of financial stocks in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium for 15 days.

Markets around the world have endured wild swings all this week sparked by concerns over the health of the US economy, sovereign debt fears and rumours over the financial position of several of France's leading banks, with Societe General and BNP Paribas especially singled out.

Christian Noyer, the head of France's central bank, was forced to state yesterday the rumours were "unfounded" and that the country's financial institutions were sound.

SocGen chief Frederic Oudea added the rumours were totally baseless and clients could have confidence in the bank.

Worries about the health of French banks unsettled share prices of UK banks, with fears over the knock-on impact hitting Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC.

London's blue chips, overall, have lost £145 billion in value over the past two weeks even after today's rise.

US shares have also been very volatile, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average seeing swings of between 4% and 5% on a daily basis.

The Dow rose by almost 4% yesterday as unemployment data came in better than expected and it has continued to rise today following the retail sales data.

The US Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.5% last month, the best showing since March, with the previous two months figures also revised upwards.

The latest data and jobless figures yesterday followed a string of weaker-than-expected economic reports that had raised fears the US was heading for a double-dip recession.