FTSE investors gamble on websites

Investors piled into gambling stocks today amid hopes that threats to make internet gambling illegal for US citizens would come to nothing.

Investors piled into gambling stocks today amid hopes that threats to make internet gambling illegal for US citizens would come to nothing.

Party Poker firm PartyGaming led the charge in the top flight, rising 14% after a debate yesterday on potential legislation drew opposition in the US House of Representatives.

The London market as a whole appeared an attractive bet for investors as the FTSE 100 Index climbed to a new five year high at 6073 before slipping slightly to 8.4 points higher at 6052.5 by mid-morning.

The initial improvement was driven by miners and a record high for the Australian stock market, which houses the likes of dual-listed BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

BHP and RioTinto have risen by at least 10% over the past seven days, although this faded as the session wore on to leave BHP down 2p at 1145p, while Rio Tinto was down 7p at 3128p.

Kazakhmys bucked the trend by continuing to rise, gaining 2% or 24.5p at 1255.5p.

In the online gaming sector, PartyGaming lifted 14% or 17.75p to 147.25p in the top flight. Smaller rivals Sportingbet rose 8% or 31.75p to 412.25p and 888 Holdings ticked 10p higher to 231p.

Supermarkets were in focus following the publication of till roll figures from research firm TNS after the market closed last night.

Tesco was down 1.75p at 328p after its growth rate slowed to 7.2%, while the news that Sainsbury’s had failed to overtake Asda nudged its shares down by 1.25p to 335.5p.

Elsewhere, analysts said Halfords delivered a stellar sales performance in a tough retail environment but tarnished this with news of a heavier fall in margins than they expected.

Halfords shares dipped 8p to 326.5p but stand well above their level at the time of the retailer’s flotation in June 2004.

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