FTSE boosted by strong Wall St opening

The London market had a robust end to the week today, after being boosted by a strong opening on Wall Street.

The London market had a robust end to the week today, after being boosted by a strong opening on Wall Street.

By the close of trading the FTSE 100 Index was up 48.5 points at 3889.9, and regaining nearly all its morning losses when it jumped to 3893.3.

Early gains from oil and banking stocks initially gave the market a boost but shares lost their sparkle in early afternoon.

However a good start on Wall Street gave London a leg up in the last few hours of trading.

US stocks rose following reassuring comments from Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan about the economy. In addition data showed the US economy posted growth rate of 4% in the third quarter, which boosted the mood.

The lift followed a nervous morning which saw London traders distracted by “double witching” – a short period when futures and option contracts expire at the same time.

The phenomenon sometimes causes extreme movements on equity markets and in September was responsible for one of the busiest 20 minutes in the London Stock Exchange’s history.

However, today’s double witching – which occurred between 10.10am and 10.30am - was exceptionally quiet.

Martin Dobson, head dealer at NatWest Stockbrokers, said: “It was a bit of a non-event. There was a bit of volatility but nothing in comparison with last time.”

Among shares which ended the session ahead were oil giants BP and Shell – both stronger as increased fears over a possible war in Iraq sparked speculation about the future price of crude.

BP added 3.5p at 416.5p while Shell was up 4.25p at 395p.

Heavyweight banks and financial stocks were also stronger, with Barclays up 4.5p at 374.5p and Lloyds TSB, which today announced a successor to chief executive Peter Ellwood, ahead 14.5p at 450p.

The group has appointed Eric Daniels, who heads up the bank’s UK retail division, as its new boss.

Other risers were Prudential, up 11.5p at 441p and Aviva, up 14.5p at 453p.

Elsewhere, Anglo-Dutch steelmaker Corus marked its last day in the Footsie ahead, up 18%, or 4p to 26p. Dealers attributed the rise to investors feeling the stock had been over-sold following its relegation from the index.

But chocolate-to-fizzy drinks group Cadbury Schweppes slipped as it emerged it was to lose one of its key directors after John Brock was today unveiled as the new chief executive at Belgian brewer Interbrew.

The 54-year-old will step down as chief operating officer of the chocolate and drinks group in ten days’ time before replacing Hugo Powell at Interbrew in February. Shares fell 3p to 387p.

Among smaller stocks, Colt Telecom surged 5%, or 2p to 43p, after staving off the threat of administration. The group today emerged victorious from a High Court battle with a US hedge fund.

The biggest Footsie risers were Corus up 4p at 26p, Compass up 18p at 327p, Amvescap up 19.75p at 399.75p and Granada up 4p at 81p.

Fallers were P&O Princess down 14.25p at 425.5p, Bunzl down 9.5p at 374.5p, Canary Wharf down 6p at 238p and United Utilities down 11p at 619p.

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