FTSE shows slight gain

Investors remained on the sidelines of the London market today as thin volumes and an absence of significant corporate news led to a subdued session trading.

Investors remained on the sidelines of the London market today as thin volumes and an absence of significant corporate news led to a subdued session trading.

By lunchtime the benchmark FTSE 100 Index of leading shares was up by 5.2 points at 3664.1 with finance, industrial and oil stocks pulling the market ahead.

But the market had lost some of its earlier gains which saw it surge 77.5 points ahead in the first hours of trading.

Traders took their lead from a jump on US exchanges on Friday, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished more than 150 points up.

US exchanges are closed today for President’s Day holiday but the markets face a busy week, with a swathe of economic and corporate data due on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today there was little corporate news to follow in London, but oil and financial stocks did well.

BP rose 4.25p to 392.25p, while Shell jumped 6p to 356.5p.

Among financial stocks, insurers were continuing to bounce back from their woes, with Legal & General up 1.5p at 75.75p, Prudential 4.75p ahead at 419.75p and Aviva up 3p at 437p.

Banking stocks on the rise were Barclays, up 10.25p at 377.75p, HSBC up 16p at 672.5p, HBOS up 17p at 608p and Bradford & Bingley 10.25p ahead at 272.5p.

Telecoms giant BT fell 4.75p to 166.25p after being downgraded by analysts at UBS Warburg as part of a review of the European telecom sector. The bank has also cut its target price from 184p to 154p.

Six Continents held firm at 555p after revealing details of the demerger of its hotel and soft drinks operation from the bars and pubs business.

Engineering group Invensys made a marginal recovery from the dramatic share plunge seen on Friday after the group issued a shock profits warning. Today, shares edged up 0.75p at 20.75p.

Defence group BAE Systems, which today said it was buying a surveillance and defence firm based in Washington DC, rose 4p to 119p.

Drugs giant AstraZeneca also made gains, up 40p at 2143p, after its Exanta drug for strokes, received “encouraging” results from a study.

Among smaller stocks, luxury housebuilder Berkeley jumped 4%, up 22p at 676p after Tony Pidgley, the son of the group’s founder, revealed he was considering making a bid to take the firm private.

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