Footsie breaks 5000 barrier

The London market broke back through the 5000 barrier today as high crude prices kept oil majors in the pink.

The London market broke back through the 5000 barrier today as high crude prices kept oil majors in the pink.

The FTSE 100 Index built on its gains during the afternoon to end the session 25.2 points up at 5000.2.

Advances by oil groups accounted for much of the top flight’s progress, spurred on by the price of US light crude, which rose to just above 55 US dollars a barrel in New York shortly after London’s close.

BP and Shell lifted 5.5p to 567p and 1.5p to 493p respectively. Gas exploration company BG Group was the highest riser in the Footsie, adding nearly 2% or 8.25p to 422.25p.

The outcome of a meeting by oil cartel Opec tomorrow will be closely watched, since higher production quotas could help to ease crude prices.

However, continued sparring between miners over Australia’s WMC Resources prevented more impressive gains by the Footsie, with several stocks in the sector losing nearly 1% of their value.

Miners in the red included BHP Billiton down 9p to 730p, Xstrata off 7.5p to 1029.5p, Antofagasta losing 8p to 1319p and Rio Tinto weakening 4p to 1785p.

Early trading on Wall Street was downbeat, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing 21 points to 10783 shortly after the end of trading in London.

That was despite profits at the United States’ fifth biggest securities firm, Lehman Brothers Holdings, hitting a record on gains in fixed-income trading revenue and investment banking fees.

On a quiet day for corporate news in London, steel giant Corus cheered a penny to 58.5p amid hopes of further steel price rises.

But supermarket group Morrisons headed the fallers board, off 6p to 213p, after broker Numis downgraded it on concerns of a potential slowdown in sales.

Elsewhere, convenience foods business Uniq slipped 4%, off 6.5p to 155p, after revealing it was looking for a new chief executive as part of a strategic overhaul.

Electronics, metals and ceramics group Cookson pleased investors with news of a 90% narrowing in its annual losses and a positive performance in its main markets. The shares climbed nearly 5% or 1.75p to 39p.

Mersey Docks & Harbour Company lost 4.5p to 973p after saying underlying pre-tax profits rose 2.5% to £55.6 million in the year to December 31, from £54.2 million last time.

IT group Computacenter was doing better, however, rising 7p to 299.5p as it revealed that growth in its managed services operations had driven a 3.2% increase in annual profits.

Shares in plant hire group Ashtead gained nearly 7% or 6.5p to 99.75p after it remained upbeat about its prospects following a better than expected performance in its quietest trading quarter of the year.

The day’s biggest risers were BG Group, up 8.25p to 422.25p, Shire Pharmaceuticals lifting 11.5p to 598p, Smith & Nephew gaining 10.5p to 546p and Reuters advancing 7.75p to 415.75p.

Largest fallers were Morrisons, off 6p to 213p, William Hill losing 9p to 568p, BHP Billiton shedding 9p to 730p and British Airways retreating 3.25p to 272.25p.

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