Lloyds TSB and advertising giant WPP set a blistering pace today during a strong end to the week for London’s leading shares.
Deal activity in the utilities sector and a surge in the share price of Tesco contributed to the upbeat mood as the FTSE 100 Index recovered losses seen in the previous session to close 24.5 points higher at 5860.5.
The improvement came despite a difficult session for mining shares following news that platinum specialist Lonmin was no longer in takeover talks.
Antofagasta topped the fallers board with a decline of 39p to 2083p while Rio Tinto declined 42p to 2780p and Anglo American eased 34p to 2159p.
Lonmin – the rump of the late British industrialist Tiny Rowland’s Lonrho empire – dropped 8% or 197p to £23 outside the top flight.
A broker downgrade also left retailer Next 26p lower at 1640p and Ladbrokes slipped 6.5p to 370p on its first session since splitting from Hilton Group.
But the mood was mostly upbeat as Lloyds caught the eye after profits of £3.82 billion smashed expectations and the bank signalled it was getting to grips with its pensions issues and had discovered the potential for more savings.
Its shares rose 25.5p to 566.5p, a gain of almost 5% but still short of the near-8% improvement achieved by WPP, up 49p to 668p.
Shares in WPP drew in investors after the London-based company bettered most City expectations with a 36% rise in profits to £669 million and said it would improve margins targets for the next two years.
The Lloyds results helped a clutch of other stocks in the sector with Royal Bank of Scotland gaining 22p to 1860p and HSBC adding 15p to 980p. Both companies have yet to post their annual figures.
National Grid was in focus after confirming it was in talks over a deal - thought to be worth seven billion US dollars – for KeySpan, the New York-based utility and natural gas distributor.
Analysts said a deal could be a positive driver for National Grid and this helped to explain a rise of 16p to 613.5p in its share price.
Yorkshire Water owner Kelda joined National Grid on the risers board, up nearly 3% – 20.5p to 808.5p – after it sold its US business Aquarion to Macquarie Bank for £491 million.
Supermarket giant Tesco also enjoyed a gain of 10p to 335.5p after impressing analysts during an investor day, while rival Sainsbury’s was ahead 6.5p to 326p in the wake of a £2 billion refinancing and move to bolster its pension fund. Morrisons added to the strong day for supermarkets with a 5.75p rise to 215p.
The biggest Footsie risers were WPP up 49p at 668p, Lloyds TSB ahead 25.5p at 566.5p, PartyGaming up 4.75p at 129.75p and Capita Group ahead 16.75p at 471.75p.
The biggest fallers were Antofagasta down 39p at 2083p, Ladbrokes off 6.5p at 370p, GUS down 17p at 1040p and Brambles Industries off 6.75p at 413p.