Strong gains for FTSE

The London market advanced by more than 1% today as heavyweight mining and banking stocks enjoyed a positive session.

The London market advanced by more than 1% today as heavyweight mining and banking stocks enjoyed a positive session.

The FTSE 100 Index was buoyed by soaring metal prices, while banking giants Goldman Sachs and HSBC pleased investors after their exposure to America's sub-prime mortgage crisis came within market expectations.

The Footie was almost 100 points higher after the Bank of England's latest inflation forecast, which signalled two interest rate cuts next year, but closed the session 69.7 points ahead at 6432.1 as the benchmark index's winning week continued.

The London market tailed off from the higher gains seen earlier after a flat beginning to trading on Wall Street amid nerves over lacklustre retail sales data.

The pause came after the strong advances of the previous session when Goldman Sachs said it did not expect a significant impact from the US sub-prime mortgage turmoil.

In London, HSBC gained nearly 3%, or 23.5p, to 866p as it reassured profits were ahead of last year despite a $3.4bn (€2.3bn) third quarter hit to its US consumer finance division.

Other banking stocks on the front foot included Royal Bank of Scotland up 9.25p at 467p, Bradford & Bingley ahead 1.5p to 291.75p and Barclays which added 6p to 533p. Alliance & Leicester proved the exception, with its shares falling heavily amid market rumours of funding problems. This was quashed by the bank, but failed to stop shares slipping 21p lower at 669p.

Friends Provident made firm progress after it announced a strategic review and said chief executive Philip Moore had left the group. This was viewed positively in the face of its recent failed merger attempt with Resolution, sending shares up 8p at 167.5p.

But miners headed the risers' board, helped by strong tin and copper prices as well as better than expected results from platinum miner Lonmin.

Kazakhmys was the leading riser, up 96p to 1459p, followed by Antofagasta, which gained 42p to 745p. Lonmin meanwhile cheered 123p to 3200p - after pleasing the City with full-year results despite production woes.

Energy giant BP rose by 2% - up 16.5p at 599.5p - after it said it had made a major natural gas discovery at a field in Azerbaijan.

Northern Rock was the leading Footsie faller ahead of tomorrow's deadline for rescue bids for the crisis-hit mortgage lender. The stock fell 8%, or 12.8p to 139.2p.

Meanwhile, Sainsbury's failed to benefit from half-year results slightly ahead of market expectations. The stock, which has been under pressure following an aborted takeover attempt, slipped 12.75p to 413p.

Panmure Gordon cut its target for the supermarket and said it believed rival Tesco offered a more attractive proposition. In contrast, Tesco rose 10p to 492p, while Morrisons added 5.25p to 281.75p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Kazakhmys up 96p at 1459p, Antofagasta ahead 42p at 745p, Tullow Oil up 32.5p at 645.5p and Friends Provident ahead 8p at 167.5p.

The biggest fallers were Northern Rock down 12.8p at 139.2p, Alliance & Leicester off 21p at 669p, Sainsbury's down 12.75p at 413p and Smith & Nephew off 13p at 566p.

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