Footsie edges towards 4000 barrier

Consumer goods giant Unilever provided comfort for investors today as the FTSE 100 Index recovered some of its poise after yesterday’s fall.

Consumer goods giant Unilever provided comfort for investors today as the FTSE 100 Index recovered some of its poise after yesterday’s fall.

Shares in the Persil-to-Knorr group rose by more than 4% after it upped earnings targets for the second time this year in a third-quarter update.

Telecoms were also providing a lift as traders prepared for what is expected to be a weak start on Wall Street later this afternoon.

And by midday the Footsie was up up 24.1 points at 3960.0 after falling back through the 4000 barrier during yesterday’s 3.8% slide.

Poor consumer confidence figures in the US hit trading yesterday but a late rally on the Dow Jones helped to steady nerves by the start today.

Unilever was the highest riser among blue-chips in the City as it showed further evidence its Path to Growth restructuring was on track.

Sales of leading brands rose 5.4% in the third quarter and Unilever now expects earnings growth in the “high teens” in 2002. Shares rose 26p to 604p.

Close behind was drinks group Diageo as it cleared its head after yesterday’s warning that it may not hit targets this year caused an 8% fall.

The group rallied 26p to 703p today helped by stockbroker Morgan Stanley which said the statement highlighted issues already in the share price.

Elsewhere, mobile phone giant Vodafone moved up 2.5p to 103p while mmO2 rose 1.75p to 50.5p. Cable & Wireless edged up 0.25p to 143.25p.

Oil giants BP and Shell were also making up ground with BP up 4.5p to 397p and Shell 8.5p climbing to 389.5p ahead of its third-quarter results tomorrow.

Among smaller stocks convenience stores group T&S Stores soared after supermarket giant Tesco revealed an agreed £377.3 million deal for the business.

The all-share deal values T&S’ shares at 455p and the group, best known for its One Stop and Day & Nite brands, rose 22% or 81p to 440p.

But furniture retailer Homestyle dived after revealing it faced a potential outstanding tax bill of more than £23 million.

The Rotherham-based group said HM Customs & Excise had “challenged” the VAT it pays on structural guarantees offered to customers for furniture.

Shares in the business tumbled by almost 23%, a drop of 60p to 205p, which would be its lowest close since July 1999.

But it was better news for outdoor clothing group Blacks Leisure, which edged up 2p to 221.5p after bouncing back into the black.

Half-year results showed the group cashed in on “pent up demand” for the camping and hiking gear after last year’s foot and mouth crisis.

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