FTSE gains ground

The FTSE 100 Index overcame a tentative start to post further gains today.

The FTSE 100 Index overcame a tentative start to post further gains today.

Better-than-expected second quarter GDP figures in the United States pushed the London market to a two month high last night, a trend which continued today after the Footsie added 27.6 points to 5628.8 by mid-morning.

Financial stocks were on the front foot with Halifax Bank of Scotland up 9p at 314.5p and Royal Bank of Scotland 3.75p higher at 233.75p.

But some of the gains seen yesterday were unwound, with RSA Insurance among those lower after speculation of a bid from Zurich Financial Services had boosted shares on Thursday. The stock slipped 1% or 1.9p to 152.2p, while other insurers were also lower with Prudential off 4.5p at 550p.

Sainsbury’s was also lower for a while, but vague takeover rumours lingered to leave the supermarket 2.75p higher at 346.75p.

The main corporate action involved stocks outside the top flight, with Bradford & Bingley and the Restaurant Group – owner of the Frankie & Benny’s chain - among those reporting results.

As expected, B&B interims were grim with bottom-line losses of £26.7m (€33.2m) and widening arrears. But analysts said there were no surprises in the results, meaning shares were down half a penny at 49.75p.

Restaurant Group impressed investors after a 20% rise in first-half profits and a steady start to the second half of the year. Shares rose 6% or 8.25p to 140.25p.

But Sunlight linen hire business Davis Service Group slid 13% after it scaled back expectations for this year and next. The group posted healthy first half figures but said lower hotel occupancy rates were impacting on its Sunlight business in the UK. Shares fell to 352.25p, down 53.25p.

Premier Foods lost another 7%, or 6.25p to 85.75p, after interim results yesterday failed to ease concerns about its £1.8bn (€2.2bn) debt position.

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