FTSE recovers from earlier losses

The FTSE 100 Index rallied today to recover earlier losses sparked off by selling in US bond markets and fears of higher interest rates.

The FTSE 100 Index rallied today to recover earlier losses sparked off by selling in US bond markets and fears of higher interest rates.

London’s benchmark index closed up 39.2 points at 6559.6 after strong advances in mining stocks combined with upbeat economic data in America to lift blue chips out of the red.

Antofagasta was up 5%, or 28p, at 594.5p as the firm reported high copper prices and good prospects in 2007.

The news boosted heavily-weighted miners up the leaders’ board, with Xstrata 138p ahead at 3007p, Lonmin up 179p at 3931p, Rio Tinto ahead 161p at 3721p and Vedanta Resources 52p higher at 1528p.

Takeover speculation also helped fuel the market, as investors seized on rumours of a potential bid for insurer Royal & Sun Alliance from its larger rival AIG. Traders said AIG shares have been languishing at current levels and a corporate transaction would be a catalyst for the group’s shares.

The talk saw the stock move 4% higher, or 5.5p, at 155.9p, although the market was also quick to point out that shares had recently reached a five-month low.

Meanwhile, more rumours of stakebuilding helped lift supermarket giant Sainsbury’s 8.5p to 559.5p, with talk that Qatari investment firm Delta Two was looking to add to its 17.4% share of the business, possibly seeking to increase its holding to 29.9%.

Alliance & Leicester was on the front foot after the firm named its new chief executive and said it was trading at the top end of expectations following strong performances across the business. The stock was ahead 14p at 1118p.

Positive broker notes also boosted a number of stocks, with business information firm Experian ahead 14p at 616p.

Stocks turning ex-dividend, meaning that shareholders are not entitled to the latest dividend payout, accounted for the leading faller, with chemicals-to-catalysts firm Johnson Matthey off 37p at 1658p.

Telecoms company Cable & Wireless also suffered, down 1.7p at 199.8p.

Elsewhere, AIM listed dental firm Oasis Healthcare saw shares leap 21%, or 15p, to 85.5p after recommending a private equity bid which could yet be challenged by a trade buyer.

Specialist magazine publisher Future also jumped 8%, or 3p to 42.5p, as its results came in ahead of expectations amid good progress on its recovery plans and strong online growth.

But film studio Pinewood Shepperton saw shares fall 5%, or 13.75p to 273.5p, after warning that production delays would lead to broadly flat revenues this year.

FTSE 250 firm Biffa also ended the day down, off 7p, or 2%, at 286p as a broker note cautioned that incoming regulations may affect the business. The losses compounded the stock’s 9% dive seen yesterday after the waste management group warned it expected to see growth slow at its landfill division.

The biggest Footsie risers were Antofagasta, up 28p at 594.5p, Xstrata up 138p at 3007p, Lonmin up 179p at 3931p and Rio Tinto ahead 161p at 3721p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Johnson Matthey off 37p at 1658p, Persimmon down 22p at 1232p, Kelda Group down 13.5p at 948.5p and International Power down 6p at 428.5p

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