The London market struggled for direction today as it tried to build on yesterday’s four-and-a-half-year high following a strong rally in the New Year.
Utility stocks and light profit-taking weighed on the market early on as the FTSE 100 Index gave up more than 10 points in the first hour of trading.
But positive sentiment from across the Atlantic and gains in the oil sector helped provide stability to send the FTSE 100 Index up five points to 5719.6 by mid-morning.
Amvescap and Man Group were among the biggest risers after upbeat comments about asset managers from Deutsche Bank. Amvescap ticked up 13.25p to 467.25p while Man Group was 44p ahead at 2004p.
They were followed up the leaders’ board by high street retailer Next – up 37p to 1717p – as it continued to build on yesterday’s announcement that annual profits would be better than expected.
Oil heavyweights BP and Royal Dutch Shell were also making headway – up 7p to 641p and 17p to 1938p respectively.
But Yorkshire Water owner Kelda, United Utilities and Severn Trent prevented further progress after going ex-dividend, meaning investors are no longer entitled to the most recent payouts.
Kelda was the heaviest blue-chip faller, losing 3% of its value or 24p to 748p, while United Utilities lost 16.5p to 657.5p and Severn Trent fell 17p to 1068p.
They were joined in the red by mining stock Kazakhmys – down 17.5p to 797.5p - as copper prices edged lower after record highs set in the wake of a strike in Chile.
Banking giant Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) was lower after chief executive James Crosby announced plans to quit the group in the summer. The stock eased 8p to 967.5p.
Much of today’s news came from outside the top flight where housebuilder Redrow was out of favour after saying it would not replicate last year’s first-half profits.
Its shares fell 19p to 516p and Redrow was joined on the way down by Barratt Developments, off 20.5p at 992p, and Bellway, down 38p to 1118p.