By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON (Reuters) – FTSE rose for a fifth straight session on Tuesday, boosted by retailers which were up strongly on industry data that provided more evidence the UK’s economic recovery is slowly gathering momentum.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index closed up by 1.2 percent, or 81.11 points, at 6,672.66 points – marking the index’s highest closing level since late January.

Trading volumes on the FTSE came in at around 1.5 times above the index’s average 90-day volume.

The FTSE 100 rose 14.4 percent in 2013 to post its best annual gain since 2009, but the index has declined 1.1 percent since the start of 2014 as global equity markets have fallen on political and economic concerns in emerging markets.

IPR Capital director Steven Mayne said he would initially look to see if the FTSE could get beyond late January’s peak level of around 6,867 points before deciding to take a more bullish view on the stock market.

Adrian Slack, technical strategist at London-based firm APS Alpha, was more confident and expected the FTSE to reach 6,900 points in the coming month.

“I’m expecting further upside. We should push onwards and upwards,” said Slack.

Retailers dominated the FTSE’s leaderboard of top-performing stocks, after a monthly industry survey showed British retail sales rebounded after a weak December to record their strongest annual growth since April 2011.

Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, described the UK retail sales figures as superb.

Sportswear retailer Sports Direct rose 3.4 percent, clothing and food retailer Marks & Spencer gained 3.3 percent while home improvements company Kingfisher was up 3.2 percent.

In contrast, British bank Barclays was the FTSE’s biggest faller in percentage terms – it declined by 3.8 percent after posting a drop in profits.

Traders also said Barclays’ management had a hard time trying to convince analysts on a conference call about its cost-cutting and restructuring plans.

APS Alpha’s Slack said he would use any pullback in the market to buy up equity positions, given his expectations the FTSE 100 could hit a record level of 7,000 points during the second quarter of this year.

“We’re still looking to buy on the dip,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tricia Wright and Francesco Canepa; Editing by Pravin Char)