FTSE creeps higher in mixed day

Blue-chip firms in the drugs and utilities sectors experienced contrasting fortunes during a lacklustre session for the FTSE 100 Index today.

Blue-chip firms in the drugs and utilities sectors experienced contrasting fortunes during a lacklustre session for the FTSE 100 Index today.

Drugmakers occupied the top three spots on the risers board as sentiment improved on consolidation efforts in the European pharmaceuticals industry and news that high-profile drug Vioxx was safe enough to return to the US market.

But weakness among utilities nearly cancelled out their positive impact on the market, with National Grid Transco the heaviest faller as the Footsie closed 3.6 points up at 5060.8.

GlaxoSmithKline headed the risers' charts, up more than 4% or 54p to 1295p after the announcement, while AstraZeneca advanced 87p to 2162p and Shire Pharmaceuticals cheered 19p to 581p.

Aerospace group Rolls-Royce was also on the rise, lifting 1.5p to 262.75p after Dresdner upgraded the stock to buy from hold.

Elsewhere, hotels group Millennium & Copthorne was ahead by 3% or 11.75p to 400p after it said a strong performance by its London sites helped annual profits to more than double.

FTSE 250-listed Lastminute.com was also 1% or 1.25p off at 106.75p after the online travel firm said it would ask the City watchdog to probe an anonymous fax that questioned its financial health.

The highest Footsie climbers today were GlaxoSmithKline up 54p to 1295p, AstraZeneca rising 87p to 2162p, Shire Pharmaceuticals up 19p to 581p and Cairn Energy rising 32p to 1212p.

The heaviest fallers were National Grid Transco down 23.25p to 514.25p, Land Securities falling 56p to 1400p, United Utilities off 24.5p to 625.5p and British Land falling 30.5p to 861p.

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