Asian and US markets boost FTSE

The FTSE 100 Index was trading above the 6,500 barrier today despite losing the early momentum from company results and gains in overseas markets.

The FTSE 100 Index was trading above the 6,500 barrier today despite losing the early momentum from company results and gains in overseas markets.

A strong round of blue-chip earnings figures and overnight advances in Asian and US markets lifted stocks to a high of 6530.4 in the morning session.

But the market was unable to sustain the surge and slipped back to 6503.5 at mid-morning, still 19 points ahead.

Consumer products giant Unilever led the risers’ board, as the group reported better than expected first quarter sales figures. The stock was up more than 5% or 79p to 1635p.

There was more cheer from oil major Royal Dutch Shell, up 32p, or 2%, to 1839p as the company posted earnings of 6.93 billion US dollars (£3.47bn) despite lower oil prices. BP was also up 7.5p to 573.5p.

A 6% rise in operating profits also helped British American Tobacco 23p higher to 1595p. Rival Imperial Tobacco lifted 27p to 2234p on the results.

Meanwhile, insurance giant Prudential advanced 31p to 782p amid reports of shareholder pressure for a break-up of the group.

The property sector was also lifted after Hammerson’s chairman John Nelson admitted the firm was a takeover target at the company’s annual meeting.

The firm’s shares were 4% higher, or 32.5p up at 784.5p, while peers British Land cheered 26p to 1518p and Land Securities was 39p higher at 2032p.

Among the early fallers, drugs firm Shire was off 15p at 1151p after reports of a legal setback over a company it bought in 2005.

Share buybacks also affected catering group Compass – down 1.25p at 364p and engineering firm BAE Systems, off 10.5p at 434p.

Elsewhere, HMV cheered 0.75p to 116.75p after the struggling music and books retailer maintained profit expectations despite an “extremely tough” trading environment.

Outdoor clothing specialist Blacks Leisure went in the opposite direction after warm weather hit sales and all but wiped out full-year profits. The shares were off more than 3%, or 9p, at 252p.

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