News of soaring profits at banking giant HSBC sent investors piling into the stock today despite poorer fortunes for the wider London market.
HSBC joined rival Abbey at the top of the list of blue-chip risers during an otherwise disappointing start for the FTSE 100 Index.
High oil prices and fears over terrorist attacks on financial institutions in the United States caused the Footsie to drift back around the 4400 barrier to stand 7.5 points lower at 4405.6 by mid-morning.
Banking giant HSBC was the highest top flight climber after setting a new European record for half-year earnings with profits up 53% to £5.14bn (€7.8bn) in the first six months of 2004. Shares rose 3% or 25.5p to 833p.
It was followed by Abbey National after it emerged rival HBOS was pondering a counter bid for the UK’s second largest mortgage bank – currently the subject of an £8.2bn (€12.2bn) takeover offer from Spanish bank Santander Central Hispano.
Shares in Abbey rose 2% or 12.25p to 579.25p, while Barclays cheered 1.75p to 461.75p and Royal Bank of Scotland advanced 9p to 1555p.
However, elsewhere in the banking sector HBOS retreated 18p to 694.5p and Lloyds TSB weakened half a penny to 411.65p.
Apart from Abbey, high street retailer Next made gains after it emerged chief executive Simon Wolfson and other board members had bought shares in the group. The boost to confidence lifted shares 3p to 1500p.
But oil giants BP and Shell were amongst the other stocks dragging the market down, off 3.75p and 3p to 512.25p and 395.5p respectively.
Elsewhere, car dealer Inchcape added nearly 3%, or 48p to 1673p, after it said it had sold more cars in the UK over the last half year and posted a 31% rise in pre-tax profits to £83.4 million.