Positive finish for FTSE

The London market ended the week camped in positive territory after investors shook off fresh gloom in the DIY sector today.

The London market ended the week camped in positive territory after investors shook off fresh gloom in the DIY sector today.

Softer oil prices ensured traders signed off for the weekend with smiles on their faces as the cost of crude dropped to its lowest level for four months.

Rumoured deals in the banking sector also tempted investors off the sidelines as the FTSE 100 Index closed 41.6 points higher at 5465.1.

Wall Street was on course to end the trading week higher than it began, pulling 25 points clear of its opening mark in the first few hours of business.

With oil prices drifting below 57 US dollars a barrel at one point today, investors in London took the opportunity to build stakes in stocks that rely heavily on fuel.

Chemicals giant ICI ticked 3.5p higher to 315p and rival Johnson Matthey lifted 17p to 1218p to reach its highest level for more than five years. British Airways rose 3.75p to 320p to hit a peak not seen for 18 months.

Speculation that Lloyds TSB is considering a joint venture for its Scottish Widows Investment Partnership with rival Fortis put the spotlight on the financial sector.

Lloyds TSB cheered 7p to 470.25p on the back of the news, while Royal Bank of Scotland lifted 33p to 1667p, Barclays rose 9.5p to 595.5p and HSBC jumped 12p to 926.5p.

However, B&Q owner Kingfisher lost almost 2% of its value after builders’ merchant Travis Perkins issued a profits warning after seeing a sharp deterioration in market conditions.

Kingfisher slipped 3.75p to 214.75p and brickmaker Hanson fell 6.5p to 589.5p after Travis said trading had worsened since mid-October.

Travis lost more than 9% of its value in the FTSE 250 Index – off 129p at 1284p – but furniture group MFI was hit even harder amid concerns about its Howden joinery business. MFI lost 15% or 12.25p to 71p.

Model railways group Hornby fell 7%, down 16p to 207.5p, as it sounded a cautious note about Christmas trading and posted profits below City hopes.

Profits of £2.5 million for the six months to September 30 compared with one broker’s forecast of £2.8 million.

In contrast, telecoms group Kingston Communications extended yesterday’s significant gains, triggered by news of a takeover approach. Shares lifted 13% or 8.5p to 73p today amid speculation its mystery suitor was an American buyout firm. The stock rose 15% yesterday.

Blue-chip recruitment firm Whitehead Mann lost 1.75pto 31.75p despite saying a major restructuring drive helped it narrow losses. The reduced size of the business cut turnover to £20.3 million from £26.9 million in the first half of its financial year.

The highest Footsie risers today were Antofagasta rising 76p to 1595p, 3i Group up 28.5p to 815p, Compass Group rising 6.5p to 207.5p and Rio Tinto up 64p to 2336p.

The heaviest fallers were Kingfisher losing 3.75p to 214.75p, Cairn Energy off 30p to 1820p, Next losing 20p to 1330p and Vodafone off 2p to 146p.

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