Another rise for FTSE

The FTSE 100 Index ended a buoyant week with its fourth winning session in a row today as mining stocks continued their recent push higher.

The Footsie finished 27.5 points up at 5132.9 and has now advanced more than 6% since Monday's close amid slowly recovering risk appetite among investors.

In a quiet day for corporate news, a combination of broker upgrades, improved sentiment and higher metal prices underpinned the heavyweight sector's gains.

In London, fears of UK recovery being choked off by rate hikes were lifted when factory gate prices slowed more than expected in June, reducing the pressure for tightening to control inflation.

Markets overlooked poorer data on the UK goods trade gap, which widened to £8.1bn (€9.67bn) in May amid little sign of help from a weaker pound.

Sterling stood just below 1.51 against the dollar and 1.19 against the euro. The single currency has strengthened in recent days as confidence over the eurozone picks up.

Mining firm Antofagasta was the top flight's best performer, gaining 34.5p to 886p or 4% as Citigroup brokers upgraded it to a buy rating.

BT Group was also on the front foot after the telecoms giant reached a deal with union leaders for an "unprecedented" three-year pay rise worth more than 9%.

While the City estimated the deal could cost around £50m (€59.7m) extra a year by 2013, the deal averted the threat of a costly strike by workers and helped shares to rise 4p to 140p.

Medical instruments firm Smith & Nephew was also in demand amid vague bid gossip in a quiet session. Shares added 23p to 607p.

One of the biggest falls in the top flight was posted by National Grid after analysts at Citigroup yesterday removed their buy rating on the stock and said the utility may sell its US business in order to protect its dividend. Shares, which were flat last night in a strong market, fell 7.1p to 494.9p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, shares in roofing and insulation firm SIG rose 2.4p to 106.9p after it forecast better-than-expected half-year profits due to a recovery in sales over the second quarter of the year.

Engineering firm Bodycote set the pace in the second tier after it said it was on course to exceed market forecasts for full-year operating profits. Shares were 14% higher, up 26.9p at 217.6p.

Elsewhere. shares in recruitment firm Michael Page International lifted 7.6p to 393.4p after growth in Asia helped boost second quarter profits.

Bovis Homes shares were up 5.7p to 354.5p after announcing plans to restore its dividend at the end of the current financial year.

A solid trading update from Bovis was overshadowed by a cautious assessment of the sector by broker HSBC. The review caused Bellway to fall by 12p to 612p and Redrow to slip 3.5p to 109.8p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Antofagasta up 34.5p to 886p, Smith & Nephew up 23p to 607p, Prudential up 19p at 537p and Invensys up 8.8p to 267.6p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were British Land down 9.1p to 447.5p, Segro down 4.5p at 269.7p, African Barrick Gold off 9p to 584.5p and Land Securities down 8.5p to 579p.

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