FTSE builds on five-month high

The London market continued to build on its five-month high today as utility companies took centre stage and investors cheered another record performance on Wall Street.

The London market continued to build on its five-month high today as utility companies took centre stage and investors cheered another record performance on Wall Street.

The FTSE 100 Index had struggled to find its feet in early trading, but by mid-morning it was forging ahead by 8.7 points to stand at 6013.2.

It came after the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a new high in New York overnight, batting away concerns over US job figures due out later today.

Utility companies dominated the top-performing stocks with Severn Trent up 56p to 1440p, Kelda increasing 34.5p to 929.5p and United Utilities lifting 11.5p to 722.5p. British Gas owner Centrica was also on the rise, this time by 3.25p to 338.25p.

And outside the top flight, Northern Irish power firm Viridian confirmed it had agreed the terms of a £1.6bn (€2.4bn) takeover by private equity firm Arcapita. The shares jumped 9% – or 107p – to 1328p on the back of the announcement.

But the best performing blue chip was beleaguered online poker room PartyGaming, which stole the top spot with a rise of more than 6% on talk that it was in advanced discussions with small rival Gamesys Group about a revised takeover bid.

Shares in the Party Poker giant have been battered since Monday following anti-gaming legislation in the US but investors returned cash to the table today to send the firm 2.5p higher to 42.5p.

In the second tier, no-frills airline easyJet gained nearly 1% or 3.75p to 501.75p after it upgraded its forecast for annual profits following a better-than-expected boost in revenues prompted by higher passenger numbers.

Meanwhile, investors seemed unconcerned over reports takeover talks had stalled between estate agent Countrywide and potential private equity bidder 3i. Shares were still up almost 1% – or 4.75p – at 499.75p.

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