Lagos - Nigeria's stock index hit a 59 week high on Wednesday, crossing the psychological 24,000 point level, on confidence from the recovery of the banking sector and heavy buying of Union Bank shares, dealers said.
Sub-Saharan Africa's second biggest index gained 1.46 percent to 24,365 points at 1148 GMT on Wednesday, after rising consistently last week, hitting its highest since July 13, 2011, when it closed at 24,410 points.
Shares in Union Bank jumped almost 5 percent to 5.89 naira, on cross dealing of 2.2 billion shares by new investors in the lender, pulling other banks up with it.
The banking sector up is up 36.2 percent this year on a recovery in earnings, compared with gains in the overall Nigerian index of 15.83 percent.
Union Bank shares gained 152 percent last year.
Fidelity bank rose 4.41 percent and Guaranty Trust Bank rose 3.07 percent.
Last week, Guaranty Trust Bank became the latest lender to post strong half-year results, reporting a 63 percent rise in pretax profit to 53 billion naira and saying that 73 percent of its gross earnings came from interest income.
Nigerian shares are rebounding from their 2011 losses caused by panic over the Eurozone crisis and poor earnings on debt write downs. Dealers expect the index to reach 26,000 points by the end of the year.
Other top gainers on Wednesday included industrial stocks Dangote Sugar, Wapco, Flour Mills and Ashaka cement all up almost five percent.