Insurance stocks help FTSE rise

The London market plotted a steady course today despite the impact of a profits warning by photographic specialist Jessops on the retail sector.

The London market plotted a steady course today despite the impact of a profits warning by photographic specialist Jessops on the retail sector.

Insurers were among the stocks helping the FTSE 100 Index overcame last week’s trading difficulties to stand 17.2 points higher at 4940.5 by mid-morning.

The insurance sector was buoyed by a broker upgrade for Friends Provident - ahead almost 2% or 3p at 179.25p – while Royal & Sun Alliance cheered 0.75p to 78.75p and Norwich Union owner Aviva added 3p to 652.5p.

There was a further boost from the cigarettes industry after Imperial Tobacco - up 23p at 1404p – said trading remained in line with management expectations. BAT followed Imps higher with a gain of 15p to 935p.

Retailers were again under pressure after the sector received a further jolt from Jessops, a surprise victim of the slowdown in consumer spending.

Jessops shares plunged 29% or 45p to 109.5p after it said sales of digital cameras had shrunk considerably in February and March.

The news unsettled investors in top-flight retailers with Dixons down 1.75p to 149p, Tesco off 1.5p to 315p and Morrisons down 2p to 199.75p ahead of annual results on Wednesday.

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