Oil and mining stocks push up FTSE

The FTSE 100 Index closed at highest level since mid-March today as oil and mining stocks gushed higher.

The FTSE 100 Index closed at highest level since mid-March today as oil and mining stocks gushed higher.

Oil giant Shell was one of the session’s biggest climbers as the Footsie moved closer back towards the key 5,000 barrier, ending the day 29.6 points higher at 4977.

The much-needed boost came as the cost of a barrel of US light crude oil remained constant at just below $56. Shell saw its market value rise by more than 2% or 12p to 496p while rival BP advanced 10p to 570p.

A decision by the Bank of England to leave interest rates on hold at 4.75% today was widely expected and had little effect on shares.

Good progress across the Atlantic also added to the momentum, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly 40 points higher by the end of trading in London.

A stronger outlook for the copper and zinc markets was behind mining group Xstrata’s 18p rise to 1027p. Rival BHP Billiton advanced 14p to 722p after a broker upgrade.

Artificial hips and knees manufacturer Smith & Nephew shook off some of its recent weakness caused by an inquiry in the United States to rise 9.5p to 528p. One analyst said investors were starting to put the matter into perspective.

However, news that health and beauty chain Boots was putting its business making Nurofen and Strepsils up for sale failed to inject momentum into the group’s shares.

Although Boots advanced 2% early on, it later fell back 4p to 615.5p as investors focused on downbeat comments that operating profits were likely to be lower in the current financial year.

Outside the top flight, car accessories and bicycles retailer Halfords rose 3.5p to 300p after saying that its full-year figures should mirror its own expectations despite a slowdown in sales over the past six months.

Racecourse owner Arena Leisure leapt more than 5% or 2.5p to 43p on news of a maiden dividend payment, record operating profits and strong current trading.

EasyJet rose 9.25p to 224p after announcing that it carried 28.9% more passengers last month and reduced the number of vacant seats on its planes.

Sofa specialist ScS Upholstery said half-year profits would be materially ahead of last year despite bad weather cooling sales, moving the stock 16p higher to 385p.

And fashion house Mulberry saw its shares rise by a fifth after demand for handbags sported by stars such as Kate Moss drove a sales surge. The stock advanced 19.5p to 119p after it said profits for the year to March 31 should beat market expectations.

The highest Footsie risers today were Corus up 1.5p to 55.5p, BG Group adding 10.75p to 430.25p, Shell up 12p to 496p and Royal & Sun Alliance adding 1.75p to 82.75p.

The heaviest fallers were Tate & Lyle down 15p to 512.5p, Hanson off 8.5p to 476p, Shire Pharmaceuticals down 8.5p to 613p and Exel falling 9.5p to 888p.

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