FTSE holds firm

The FTSE 100 Index held firm above the 6100 barrier today as mining stocks provided some stability from the recent turmoil.

The FTSE 100 Index held firm above the 6100 barrier today as mining stocks provided some stability from the recent turmoil.

Strong full year results from BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining group, helped the sector gain 3%, thrusting major players to the top of the risers board.

The advances from heavily weighted mining stocks saw the London market gain 44.3 points to 6130.4 by mid-morning.

Lonmin was the top performer, up 5%, or 150p at 3113p, thanks to BHP’s results - showing a 35% rise in underlying profits to 13.7 billion US dollars (£6.9bn) - and the group’s positive outlook on commodity prices.

BHP rose 43p to 1344p, or 3%, while peers Antofagasta and Anglo American moved up 25p to 679p, and 84p to 2688p respectively.

Mortgage bank Northern Rock saw shares make a much-needed recovery, moving ahead 3%, or 24p to 726p on the back of takeover speculation after a note from Cazenove suggested HSBC could see the group as a good takeover fit.

Man Group, which has also been hit by market uncertainty, put back 14.75p at 472.75p while Invesco added 19.5p at 601.5p, a gain of 3%.

Supermarket giant Sainsbury added 12p to 527p as market rumours suggested the group may receive a sweetened offer from Delta Two, the Qatari royal family-backed fund that is stalking the chain.

A number of stocks were impacted by going ex-dividend, meaning investors are no longer entitled to the most recent payment. Currys owner DSG International fell 5.4p to 154.6p and BT Group slipped 9.75p to 302.25p.

Meanwhile, shares in FTSE 250 transport group Stagecoach surged 1%, or 2.5p to 203.5p, after it said revenues had been stronger than expected.

Fellow second tier group Emap, the media firm and publisher, was also on the front foot, up 15.5p, or 2%, at 838.5p after press reports said the group’s sale process has not been derailed by the credit squeeze.

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