FTSE in positive territory

The UK benchmark index enjoyed a late rally today after benefiting from a strong surge in mining company shares.

The UK benchmark index enjoyed a late rally today after benefiting from a strong surge in mining company shares.

Mining group BHP Billiton helped the London market build on its six-year record high reached yesterday, with the FTSE 100 Index closing up a further 23.2 points today, at 6369.5.

BHP Billiton shares soared 6%, or 54.5p, to 1040p after it reported a 4% rise in first half profits in its quarterly results, plus a $10bn (€7.6bn) cash return to shareholders as part of its buy back programme.

Sector counterparts Vedanta Resources and Anglo American were also up on BHP’s news. Vedanta’s shares rose 42p, or 4%, to 1236p, while Anglo American shares enjoyed a 66p increase to 2471p. Platinum miner Lonmin also benefited, with a 86p rise to 3189p.

A host of companies were lower after they went ex-dividend, meaning new investors will not qualify for the latest payouts. AstraZeneca slipped 34p to 2950p, Compass was off 5.25p at 302.25, Sage Group dipped 1.5p to 270.75p and Royal Dutch Shell slipped 9p to 1706p.

British Airways jumped ahead after a note from Merrill Lynch said the firm’s share price failed to reflect the potential value of BA’s move to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 in March 2008. The stock, which has been affected by worries on industrial relations, was up 25.5p at 574p, a gain of nearly 5%, providing some much needed good news. The group has suffered a barrage of expensive problems in recent months, including £80m (€121m) lost in the fall-out from last month’s threatened cabin crew strike that was averted at the last minute.

Investment firm Man Group featured high up on the fallers board after a downgrade from analysts at Dresdner Kleinwort after a share price rise of 5% since January 1. Man Group shares fell 2%, or 9p, to 570p.

International Power was down 2p at 383p amid continued fears that excess gas imports had driven power prices too low. Elsewhere in the sector British Energy fell 12.5p, or 3%, to 443.75p.

Insurer Standard Life climbed 8p to 312.5p as strong UK life and pension sales helped drive global sales to £1.73 billion during 2006, up from £1.25bn (€1.9bn) in the previous year.

Cruise firm Carnival also made the FTSE 100 leaders board today after its recent woes due to rising oil prices. Shares were up 44p, or nearly 2%, at 2671p after a broker note from Collins Stewart said Carnival was “sailing into buy territory”.

Telecoms giant Vodafone gained 1.75p to 150.75p, after it signed an agreement with MySpace.com that will enable customers to access the website through their mobile phones.

Magazine and radio publisher Emap topped the second-tier fallers’ board, off 34.5p at 774p, after it said annual profits would be at the lower end of market expectations, while low-cost airline easyJet slid 15p to 675p even though it said profits would be up to 50% higher this year after strong growth in ancillary revenues.

The biggest Footsie risers were BHP Billiton up 54.5p at 1040p, British Airways ahead 25.5p at 574p, Vedanta Resources up 42p at 1236p, Johnson Matthey up 53p at 1617p.

The biggest fallers were Compass Group off 5.25p at 302.25p, Smith & Nephew down 9.75p at 577.75p, Man Group down 9p at 570p, Cable & Wireless off 2.5p at 177p.

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