FTSE ends week on positive note

The top flight finished today comfortably in the black, but failed to make up much of the week’s losses.

The top flight finished today comfortably in the black, but failed to make up much of the week’s losses.

The FTSE 100 Index ended the session 29.7 points ahead at 4849.3, safely above yesterday’s intra-week low of 4819.6, but about 42 points shy of Monday’s starting level of 4891.6.

The best daily gain on Wall Street in about two years last night gave the Footsie a boost in early trading.

Upbeat corporate results and better-than-expected manufacturing data helped to lift the Dow Jones Industrial Average more than 200 points overnight.

However, the Dow slipped nearly 26 points shortly after London’s close after photographic equipment group Kodak posted a second consecutive loss due to the costs of closing plants and axeing jobs.

Back in London, figures showed the UK economy growing by an estimated 0.6% in the first three months of 2005, despite industrial output falling for the third quarter in a row. One analyst said the performance pointed to lower interest rates later this year and tax rises in 2006.

Shire Pharmaceuticals led the Footsie fallers with a 20.5p drop to 539p as Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) cut its rating on the stock to neutral from outperform amid disappointment about its acquisition of US biotech firm TKT.

The only top flight company reporting results today was advertising giant WPP, which filed to inspire investors despite revealing above-target profitability. WPP was the sixth heaviest Footsie faller, off 4p to 600.5p.

Aerospace and defence group Smiths headed the Footsie risers following a more positive note from CSFB. The stock cheered more than 3% or 25.5p to 870p after the broker reiterated its “outperform” recommendation.

The UK’s largest quoted company, BP, advanced 7.5p to 532p after the cost of a barrel of crude for June delivery rose beyond 55 US dollars in futures trading. Rival Shell added 4p to 472p.

Chemist and drug distribution group Alliance UniChem added 6.5p to 784.5p after reporting a strong start to 2005, but saying the impact of a 7% reduction in UK drugs prices had been greater than expected.

ITV bounced another 2.25p to 128.75p despite one analyst playing down the likelihood of a bid from former BBC director general Greg Dyke.

Elsewhere, where Bob the Builder group Hit Entertainment fell 1% or 3.5p to 313.5p after one of its potential suitors walked away.

Lara Croft creator Eidos added 1% or 0.75p to 70p after a rival suitor scrapped its £71 million bid, leaving computer games maker Sci Entertainment poised to win the takeover battle.

Drinks group Blavod Extreme Spirits also did well after it revealed it had sold more cases of vodka than expected over the past year. Shares soared more than 7% or 1.25p to 17.75p.

And tool rental group Speedy Hire gained nearly 2%, or 12p, to 678.5p after saying it was buying engineer Birse’s portable accommodation subsidiary The Cabin Company.

The biggest risers were Smiths up 25.5p to 870p, Amvescap gaining 8p to 316p, Schroders NV adding 16.5p to 667.5p and BG Group strengthening 9.75p to 412.25p.

Biggest fallers included Shire Pharmaceuticals, down 20.5p to 539p, Morrison’s off 2.25p to 202.75p, Corus shedding 0.5p to 48.25p and Boots losing 6p to 626.5p.

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