Unilever leads FTSE into positive territory

Strong first half results from Unilever and Barclays helped steer the London market into positive territory today.

Strong first half results from Unilever and Barclays helped steer the London market into positive territory today.

The FTSE 100 Index rose 38.3 points to 6288.9, buoyed by a strong late rally from US markets overnight.

Investors on Wall Street cast aside their current concerns over a crunch in credit markets to pick up recently battered shares at their lows.

Dove and Hellmann’s mayonnaise maker Unilever was the best performing blue chip stock with a gain of more than 5%, or 83p to 1587p, after it posted a forecast beating 5.8% rise in underlying sales during the first half of the year. It further cheered investors after it said it expected the strong growth to continue for the remainder of the year.

The banking sector was also on the front foot as Barclays became the latest of the high street banks to please investors with strong first half profits growth. The stock was up 2p at 679.5p after profits rose 12%.

Elsewhere in the sector Royal Bank of Scotland was ahead 10p at 589p and HBOS gained 14p to 956p.

Moving in the opposite direction, All Bar One owner Mitchells & Butlers topped the Footsie fallers’ board with a 6% drop after the group announced it would delay a £4.5 billion property deal due to the current volatility in the debt markets. The stock was down 47.5p at 700.5p.

The news saw fellow pubs group Whitbread 83p lower at 1570p, even as a positive broker note from Citigroup highlighted the stock’s earnings growth potential on the back of its Premier Travel Inn hotels chain.

British Gas owner Centrica was off 1.75p at 353.25p despite posting a solid set of half year figures. It warned residential profits growth would slow in the second half of the year amid rising wholesale gas prices.

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