Decent gains for FTSE

The London market held firm above the 6700 barrier today as hopes of a cut in US interest rates offset falls in the housebuilding sector.

The London market held firm above the 6700 barrier today as hopes of a cut in US interest rates offset falls in the housebuilding sector.

The FTSE 100 Index closed 44.7 points up at 6706 as early gains on Wall Street amid rate cut speculation buoyed investor spirits.

The dollar sunk to near-26 lows against the pound, with its weakness adding to pressure on the cost of oil, which soared to record intraday highs.

Takeover news in the mining sector added to the positive momentum, counteracting declines seen among housebuilders after disappointing mortgage data.

Miner Xstrata's £1.4bn (€2bn) deal to snap up Australia's Jubilee Mines provided a lift to sector peers, with investors eyeing further consolidation possibilities.

An upgrade and bullish commodity report from JP Morgan also lent support to heavily-weighted miners.

Vedanta Resources led the sector's risers, up 74p to 2230p, or 3%, followed by Kazakhyms up 50p at 1514p.

Anglo American cheered 107p to 3352p, while Xstrata was ahead 48p to 3576p on news of the Jubilee deal.

Elsewhere, oil prices above $93 (€132.94) a barrel made a modest impact on the oil majors.

BP gained 5p to 634p, while Royal Dutch Shell stood 13p higher at 2134p as the cost of crude soared on supply concerns and, among other factors, a weak US dollar as expectations grew of a potential 0.5% cut in US interest rates later this week.

Broadcasting giant BSkyB was also on the front foot, up 10p at 661.5p as it announced it had signed up its one millionth broadband customer. Details of the group's offer to hand over some of the voting rights on its 17.9% stake in ITV also emerged today as it seeks to hold on to the controversial shareholding.

Housebuilders, however, were suffering as Bank of England figures showed mortgage approvals fell to their lowest level in more than two years during September.

Taylor Wimpey slipped 4%, or 8.5p, to 230.5p and Barratt Developments was down 20p at 631p, while in the FTSE 250 Bovis Homes was 22.5p off at 634p.

Back in the top flight, supermarket Sainsbury's was 13p lower at 552.5p, extending losses seen in the previous session after Qatari-backed suitor Delta Two said it was attempting to find an extra £500m (€714.7m) in funding for its proposed offer.

Standard Life was also one of the session's biggest losers as the battle to buy closed life insurer Resolution intensified. Shares in Standard dropped 2.5p to 276p after Resolution dropped its support for the group's bid.

A property sector review from Morgan Stanley also left real estate blue chip Hammerson struggling, down 30p at 1029p. Its FTSE 250 counterpart Segro also fell 13.5p to 448.75p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Compass Group ahead 12p at 341.75p, Vedanta Resources up 74p at 2230p, Kazakhmys up 50p at 1514p and Anglo American up 107p at 3352p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Taylor Wimpey down 8.5p at 230.5p, Barratt Developments off 20p at 631p, Hammerson down 30p at 1029p and Sainsbury's down 13p at 552.5p.

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