FTSE soars at market close

Booming mining stocks and yet more oil price rises saw the FTSE 100 index power up to its highest level for nearly five months today.

Buoyant metals prices and a flurry of broker upgrades saw the heavyweight mining sector account for the blue chip index’s five biggest risers.

A near 1% gain on Wall Street also aided momentum in London, leaving the Footsie up more than 1% or 72.2 points to end the day at 6376.5. It last closed as high on January 3.

Vedanta Resources led the way with a near 9% jump, or 219p, to 2780p after Citi analysts praised the firm’s strong cashflows and production growth. It was followed by Eurasian Natural Resources, up 6%, or 91p to 1535p.

Next in line was Kazakhmys, which was marked up by Credit Suisse analysts on prospects of higher copper prices. Stock ended the day up 110p to 1943p.

Oil and gas firms also made further progress on crude prices, which remained at above 126 US dollars a barrel today.

BP gained 8p to 643p, while Royal Dutch Shell cheered 67p to 2184p. BG Group climbed the risers board with a 51p advance to 1368p and Cairn Energy added 107p to 3654p.

GlaxoSmithKline meanwhile was 14p higher at 1153p after its Prepandrix treatment, which could be used to treat bird flu, was cleared for use in the European Union. Other pharma stocks in better shape included AstraZeneca and Shire, up 64p to 2289p and 31p to 886p respectively.

The leading Footsie faller however was British Airways, down more than 4%, or 10.25p to 222.75p, after downgrades from analysts at ABN Amro and Deutsche Bank following annual results on Friday. The City is concerned over the impact of the high oil prices on the airline.

Another victim of the red pen was Royal Bank of Scotland, down 10.5p to 256p after Goldman Sachs lowered its target price on the firm.

Others in the sector followed RBS down, with Halifax Bank of Scotland slipping 6.75p to 462.5p and Alliance & Leicester off 10.75p at 430.25p.

In the second tier, lender Bradford & Bingley continued to feel the effects of its £300 million rights issue last week. The stock was down a further 18.25p to 114.75p today, almost 14%.

Back in the top flight, defence giant BAE Systems recovered some early losses after it emerged that two directors were briefly detained in the US last week in an investigation into bribery allegations denied by the firm. Shares picked up slightly to stand 5p lower at 461.75p.

Pay-TV firm BSkyB was also a healthy riser, up 18p to 542p, after Deutsche praised its earnings potential.

The Footsie’s four biggest risers were Vedanta Resources, up 219p at 2780p, Eurasian Natural Resources up 91p to 1535p, Kazakhmys up 110p to 1943p, and Lonmin which ended the day 146p better off at 3596p.

The four biggest fallers were British Airways, down 10.25p at 222.75p, Royal Bank of Scotland, down 10.5p to 256p, Wolseley down 21p to 558p, and Alliance & Leicester down 10.75p at 430.25p.

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