London shares set for positive session

London’s leading shares were on course for a positive session today as banks and retailers made solid progress.

London’s leading shares were on course for a positive session today as banks and retailers made solid progress.

Better-then-expected figures from US banking group Citigroup helped lift sentiment among financial stocks while retailers also pressed ahead.

With traders expecting a positive opening on Wall Street later today, the FTSE 100 Index extended earlier gains, up 25.9 points at 4084 by lunchtime.

The Citigroup results cheered investors in London, boosting financial stocks with Lloyds TSB up 14.25p at 477.25p, Royal & Sun Alliance ahead 4.25p at 148.75p and Barclays gaining 9.5p at 459.5p.

Meanwhile financial information specialist Reuters forged ahead, topping the Footsie risers board with a 6% or 11.75p gain to 219p.

Retailers were also prominent among the biggest risers after benefiting from a positive trading update from FTSE 250 stock Burberry and hopes of good news from high street favourite Marks and Spencer later in the week.

Catalogue retailer GUS, which has a stake in Burberry, gained 15.25p at 708.25p while Next put on 29p at 1092p.

There was also progress for high street chemist Boots which rose 10.5p at 656p.

Outside the top flight Burberry itself, which said total revenues in its first quarter increased 18% despite the pressure of Sars and economic uncertainty, gained 9.5p at 285.25p.

Groups in the healthcare sector firms were among the biggest top-flight losers, with AstraZeneca falling 2%, or 41p, to 2499p, Alliance UniChem off 5.25p at 501.25p but GlaxoSmithKline shook off an earlier fall to stand 4p higher at 1194p.

Meanwhile, supermarket group and takeover target Safeway was down 1.75p to 264.25p and potential suitor Morrisons eased 2p to 192p.

Drinks firms also lost ground, with Diageo slipping 8p to 630p and Scottish & Newcastle losing 4p to 360.75p.

Meanwhile outside the top flight, shares in logistics group Hays also cheered 2.25p to 103.75p after it announced the sale of its information management arm for £200 million.

And news of a takeover approach for Durex owner SSL sent the stock soaring to the top of the FTSE 250 risers board – up 10% or 32.5p to 342.5p.

However, set-top maker Pace Micro lost ground after comments that it had stabilised its business in the second half of the financial year failed to inspire the stock.

With annual losses widening to £50.1 million, Pace shares fell 6.25p to 49.5p.

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