LONDON -- A seeming return to favor by the U.K.'s two big telecom stocks buoyed sentiment in the

FTSE 100

midday Friday. Overall, the index was 40.40 points higher to 6597.40, struggling to decisively break through the 6600 level. However, there's nothing special technically about this level, with the real barrier seen at 6620, the upper end of the FTSE 100's daily uptrend channel.

Footsie leviathan

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

posted a good gain of 9p as it rose to 271 ($4.01). Analysts have, on the whole, remained strong fans of the stock, although investors have voted with their wallets and dumped it for the best part of two weeks. For the moment, Vodafone remains in a downtrend, but if it can clear 278p, the bears face an uncomfortable squeeze.

It was a similar story for

British Telecom

( BTY), which climbed 16p to 835. The stock remains in a clear downtrend between 780 and 850. However, a close above 850p should lead to a sharp run higher.

EMAP

, the consumer magazine publisher, rose as the market digests Thursday's announcement of the sale of 25 business titles to

Bertelsmann

for

14.3 million. The news encouraged the market and shares climbed 13p to

11.27. The rise is a welcome reprieve for the company, which is fighting to preserve its place in the blue-chip index.

Freeserve

(FREE)

, another company facing exclusion from the FTSE 100, climbed 6p to 269.

The rise by these two companies puts the position of

Rolls Royce

further into jeopardy. The engine-maker saw

900 million of its market capitalization wiped off Thursday after it issued a profit warning. Rolls has attracted a string of downgrades, and unless it stages a meaningful bounce, it will get kicked out of the FTSE 100 when the next quarterly changes are made by FTSE International on Sept. 6. Rolls Royce ticked 1.25p higher to 170.75.

Both

BP

(BP) - Get Report

and

Shell

(SC) - Get Report

weighed on the index as they encountered profit-taking on the back of hopes that the rally in crude prices is nearing its climax. BP slipped 3p to 633, and Shell edged down by 6.5p to 584.5p.

Banks were also heavy.

HSBC

(HBC)

shied away from the

10.00 level as it eased 8p to 976.5. Heavy profit-taking in Hong Kong started the move.

Barclays

(BCS) - Get Report

was also lower at

17.51, a fall of 8p. In contrast,

Lloyds TSB

(LLDTY)

was back in demand, rising 16p to 656.

Europe's other major stock markets were solidly in positive territory midday Friday, as the

CAC 40

in Paris was up 120.8 to 6582.7 and the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was up 87.6 to 7317.9. The

Neuer Markt's

tech-heavy

Nemax 50

index was 45.3 higher to 5683.0.

Telcos were once again making headlines, after the head of Germany's

MobilCom

reportedly said he would be interested in acquiring rival

Debitel

. MobilCom rose 0.59 euro to 111.50 ($100.65) and Debitel rose 3.50 euros, or 7.6%, to 49.50, despite a concurrent announcement from Debitel's parent

Swisscom

(SCM) - Get Report

that it was planning to concentrate on wireless telephony in the future, making it unlikely it would wish to part with Debitel. Swisscom was up 10.00 francs to 528.00 ($308.32).

Other stocks in the sector were also powering ahead.

France Telecom

(FTE)

surged 5.70 euros to 132.70,

Telefonica

(TEF) - Get Report

was up 0.83 euro to 21.78 and

Deutsche Telekom

( DT) climbed 2.07 euros to 45.44.

Elsewhere in Frankfurt,

Siemens

was up 3.10 euros to 176.90,

Epcos

(EPC) - Get Report

rose 3.70 euros to 107.01 and software maker

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

climbed 7.74 euros higher to 274.29.