Traders were still in the festive spirit yesterday as drinks firms helped boost stocks during an upbeat return following the Christmas break.

Takeover rumours involving InterContinental Hotels also managed to excite the few dealers at their desks after the holiday.

With oil prices lower, the FTSE 100 Index stood 55.2 points higher at 6245.2 at the close.

Drinks companies were buoyed by hopes of a strong festive season.

That was shown in a rise of 21.5p to 1005.5p for Guinness owner Diageo, while SABMiller lifted 19p to 1185p.

There was a gain of almost three per cent for InterContinental Hotels following a rise for the stock on Friday. Speculation pointed to private equity interest or a possible move by Sheraton owner Starwood.

The shares were up 35p at 1252p, but traders said a bidder may need to offer as much as 1500p a share to get its hands on the hotelier.

Supermarkets were among other top performers following a rise of 7p to 409.75p for Tesco, while Morrisons was ahead 5.25p at 257.5p and Sainsbury cheered 6.25p to 413.25p.

Hopes for another strong year in the housing market meant Persimmon rose 23p to 1511p, with second-tier rival George Wimpey flat at 558p.

The leading shares were offered a boost from mining stocks which were revelling in higher metal prices across the board. Vedanta was the strongest gainer up 55p at 1210p, while Rio Tinto was close behind - improving 60p to 2709p - and Lonmin 59p stronger at 3012p.

A dip in the price of crude failed to hinder BP and Royal Dutch Shell, which were up 3p at 574.5p and 15p at 1812p respectively.

Outside the top flight, shares in mobile ringtone firm Monstermob slipped two per cent after Spanish firm LaNetro Zed bought a majority stake in a weekend deal worth #34 million.

Shares were 1p lower at 51.25p, despite Monstermob chairman Hans Snook claiming the deal secured the company's financial position.

Skyepharma lifted after the drug formulation company agreed a #35 million financing agreement and announced the possible sale of its injectables unit. The moves should help secure the launch of a key product and shares rose quarter of a penny to 27p.

Biggest blue chip gainers: Vedanta up 55p at 1210p, Stand-ard Life up 10p at 300.25p, Inter-continental up 35p at 1252p and Hanson up 19p at 778.5p.

Fallers: Yell down 4p at 577p, Drax down 5.5p at 808.5p, Corus down 2.5p at 528.5p and Legal & General down 0.75p at 157.5p.