FTSE starts well

Rising oil and metal prices gave the London market a boost today despite more retailing gloom.

A fourth week of negative trading figures for high street giant John Lewis saw a host of rivals slip into the red.

However, with crude oil back up above the US$130 a barrel mark and steady rises for metals buoying heavyweight energy and mining stocks, the FTSE was up 40.9 points at 6036.2 by mid-morning.

Among the oil majors on firmer ground were Royal Dutch Shell, up 43p to 2087p, while BP added 9.75p to 592.75p. Cairn Energy set the pace at the top of the risers board, gaining 126p to 3315p.

With gold up around $10 overnight, miner Xstrata was a top-four riser, adding 117p to 4079p, with BHP Billiton 44p better off at 1922p.

However, airlines and travel firms were heavily in the red as a result of oil's advance. British Airways and FTSE 250 rival easyJet both led their respective fallers' boards, down more than 5%. BA was 13p worse off at 241.25p, while its low-cost rival was 18.5p down at 314.75p.

EasyJet shares were also impacted by its latest passengers statistics, which showed the company's planes were slightly less full in May. The load factor of 83.2% was down on the 83.6% reported for a year earlier.

Among the retailers in poorer shape after the John Lewis figures were Marks & Spencer, down 9p to 383p, and B&Q owner Kingfisher, which eased 2.8p to 136.7p.

Shares in jeweller Signet also dipped, down 2.25p to 61.25p, after it said pre-tax profits for the 13 weeks to May 3 sank 24% to US$38.6m (€24.75m) as group like-for-like sales dropped 2.5%.

Royal Bank of Scotland was another loser as investors waited for details on how successful its £12bn (€15bn) rights issue has been. Shares were down 4.25p to 254.75p.

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