FTSE on the up

Standard Life shares jumped more than 3% today after the insurer's sales figures for the final quarter of 2009 outstripped expectations on London's trading floors.

The Edinburgh-based firm kicked off the industry's reporting season by revealing a smaller-than-forecast decline of 7% in sales for 2009, helped by a stronger second half of the year as market conditions improved.

With the FTSE 100 Index recovering from a lacklustre start to stand 16.2 points higher at 5299.5, Standard's shares were up 7.3p at 205p.

The trading update also provided a boost to other stocks in the sector, with Legal & General 1.1p stronger at 78.5p, Prudential up 7p at 600p, Aviva ahead 1.4p at 399.3p and Old Mutual 1.1p better off at 106.8p.

Firmer metal prices meant miners were on the risers board, while Barclays set the pace in the banking sector after a gain of 10.1p to 299.75p. HSBC added 6.4p to 689.9p after Credit Suisse raised its forecast for pre-tax profits in 2009 and highlighted further improvement in US credit quality.

The overall mood of the market was upbeat given expectations for a positive session in New York and amid relief at steadier trading for shares after last week's turbulence. Figures on US unemployment and service sector data are expected to test the market later in the session.

AstraZeneca was the biggest faller in the top flight after Swiss firm Roche's annual numbers disappointed analysts. Astra lost 94p to 2837p, a fall of 3%, while GlaxoSmithKline dipped 1.5p to 1223.5p ahead of its figures on Thursday.

Outside the FTSE 100, shares in Carpetright were down by more than 3% after the floor coverings retailer reported a slowdown in recent sales growth.

The group said weather conditions meant like-for-like sales were ahead by 2.3% in the 13 weeks to January 30, down from 3.9% in the previous six months.

The stock gave back recent gains to stand 30.5p lower at 941.5p.

Party Poker owner PartyGaming moved in the opposite direction, up 6.8p to 291.7p, after analysts praised a strong fourth quarter trading update and said the company's outlook appeared bullish.

It was joined on the FTSE 250 risers board by a clutch of housebuilders as confidence in the sector continued to show improvement.

Taylor Wimpey led the way with a gain of nearly 4%, up 1.4p to 41.1p, while Redrow was ahead 4.2p to 141.4p and Bellway lifted 17.5p to 778.5p.

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