Exploration companies buoy FTSE

The London market was on the front foot today as higher oil and metal prices buoyed commodity stocks.

The London market was on the front foot today as higher oil and metal prices buoyed commodity stocks.

The FTSE 100 Index was 42.2 points higher at 6198.7 boosted by gains in Asian market overnight.

Miners drove the blue-chip index higher with advances of more than 2%. Kazakhmys led the pack with a rise of 40p to 1132p. Antofagasta was 14p ahead at 475.5p and Vedanta Resources lifted 35p to 1249p. BP was also 8.5p higher at 525.5p after oil prices stood at 62 US dollars a barrel.

Royal & Sun Alliance gained 3.75p to 164p after the insurer bettered expectations with full-year results and highlighted its confidence in future prospects by raising its dividend by 35%.

The performance helped lift Halifax Bank of Scotland up 11p at 1099p.

British Airways rose 1%, up 4.5p, at 519.5p, after analysts digested updated guidance from the airline at its annual investor day yesterday.

Property investment group Slough Estates slipped 6.5p to 754p as its full-year results came in on target but failed to impress investors.

Others in the sector followed the stock downwards, giving back some of yesterday’s gains for the sector. Liberty International fell 8p to 1217p and Hammerson dipped 11p to 1557p.

Cairn Energy lost 2p to 1597p after the confirmation yesterday that it is to lose its place in the FTSE 100 Index and will be replaced by Daily Mail & General Trust, which rose 7.5p to 820.5p.

Elsewhere in the second tier temporary power provider Aggreko set the pace with a gain of more than 7%, or 33.75p, to 485p, after underlying profits rose 47% during 2006, and it said it would continue to look at acquisition opportunities in the year ahead.

Shares in HMV were 6.5p higher at 147p ahead of the group’s strategic review next week and a new flurry of bid rumours over the stock.

Among other companies reporting results today, sportswear firm Umbro rose nearly 2% as it outlined plans to target more of the lucrative Chinese market. With profits up 15%, shares lifted 2.5p to 142.5p.

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