Investors were lured back to the London market today as the benchmark FTSE 100 Index gave some signs of recovery after recent falls.
London’s leading shares leapt into positive territory by lunchtime, snatching back some recent losses, and leaving the Footsie at 3673.9, a 60.6 point gain.
Fresh gloom in the embattled manufacturing sector had threatened to stall the recovery, keeping the blue chip index close to its opening mark.
The monthly purchasing managers’ index showed that manufacturing order books fell at their sharpest rate for 18 months in March – the fourth consecutive month of decline.
The overall mood was not helped by the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s fall below the 8000 barrier overnight as world markets started the week with alarm at the prospect of a drawn out conflict in Iraq.
Dealers are waiting to see which way the Dow opens on Wall Street this afternoon with many expecting further falls.
In London, the picture was brighter after a mixed performance earlier on.
Among the insurers Friends Provident rose 2.5p rise to 78.75p, recent Footsie reject Royal & Sun Alliance gained 7% or 4.75p to reach 73p and Norwich Union owner Aviva gained ground, rising 3.5p to 355.5p.
Oil stocks were experiencing better times, with BP 11.5p stronger at 412.75p and Shell up 8.5p at 391p despite the price of benchmark Brent crude losing 50 cents to 26.75 US dollars a barrel.
With little in the way of corporate news to excite investors, some of the recent fallers were back in negative territory with paint maker ICI falling 1% or 1p to 91p.
Supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Tesco also lost 2.5p each to reach 217.5p and 175.75p respectively.
Property group Canary Wharf, which yesterday announced that London Underground was exercising a break clause 10 years into a 25-year lease, again lost ground, falling 8.25p to 136.75p.
Outside the Footsie, Manchester United produced a strong set of half-year results with half-year operating profits up 32% at £31.1 million.
The figures impressed the City but a 5% gain later became 1% – up 1p at 129p.
Airports operator TBI’s resilient trading update also pushed its shares up 7% or 3p to 43p, making it the biggest gainer outside the Footsie.
Durex to Scholl group SSL International recovered some ground lost yesterday when it announced plans to sell its medical division. Today the shares rose 8p to 174p having lost 13% of their value yesterday.