The London market enjoyed a bullish session today as record results from Royal Dutch Shell and bumper earnings figures from AstraZeneca and Rio Tinto pushed blue-chip stocks ahead.
The FTSE 100 Index powered into positive territory to close up 79.1 points at 6282.2 with not a single constituent in the red at the close of play.
Oil giant Shell drove the sentiment after it posted better-than-expected fourth quarter figures, which helped it bank full-year profits of £12.94bn (€19.6bn), a rise of 21% over last year and the equivalent of nearly £1.5m (€2.3m) an hour.
With the added promise of a step-up in dividend payments in 2007, shares jumped or 33p to 1739p.
BSkyB led the leaders’ board after a host of analysts published positive notes on the broadcaster in the wake of half-year results yesterday.
While churn rates were a concern, the City was encouraged by the initial take-up of broadband. Shares were up by nearly 4%, with a gain of 21p to 567p.
Miner Rio Tinto added weight to the mining sector as it posted a 43% rise in full-year profits to £3.76bn (€5.7bn) for the year to December 31, after strong global economic growth fuelled demand for commodities.
Its shares were 35p higher at 2750p, with BHP Billiton 29p stronger at 977p and Vedanta Resources ahead by 36p at 1190p.
Pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca joined the rally amid relief that it hit targets with its full-year results.
Investors were also comforted by cost-saving initiatives and guidance for the year ahead, leaving shares 63p higher at 2903p, a gain of more than 2%.
Property companies gained ground as results from a counterpart in Europe raised expectations for strong figures in the UK sector later this month. British Land was ahead by 38p to 1607p and Hammerson rose 46p to 1512p.
In the second tier Balfour Beatty shares set the pace after the company announced a major acquisition in the United States. The deal for Centex Construction, worth $362m (€278m), saw its shares jump 9%, or 37.5p to 454.25p.
Radio group Chrysalis, which owns radio station Heart FM, slipped 1p to 143p despite figures from industry body Rajar showing more than 45 million people tune in to the radio each week, the highest figure since the group began keeping track of the UK’s listening habits in 1992.
The results also revealed Heart FM as London’s most-listened-to station, while rival Gcap Media’s Capital FM continued to struggle. However, Gcap rose 1.75p to 231.75p.
Betting group Ladbrokes climbed more than 3%, with a gain of 15.5p to 454p, after reports speculated it may become a buy-out target for CVC Capital Partners. There was also speculation the group may make a move for online gaming group 888 Holdings, which advanced 2p to 98p.
The biggest Footsie risers were BSkyB up 21p at 567p, Drax Group ahead 24.5p at 707p, Hammerson up 46p at 1512p and Vedanta Resources ahead 36p at 1190p.
There were no fallers.