First gain of the week for FTSE

The FTSE 100 Index posted its first winning session of the week today as renewed optimism over the Fed's massive bail-out plan drove financial stocks higher.

The FTSE 100 Index posted its first winning session of the week today as renewed optimism over the Fed's massive bail-out plan drove financial stocks higher.

Banks and insurers were enjoying some healthy rises - including Barclays up 7% - helping to power the index 2% higher as it surfed upwards on a strong opening for Wall Street.

The Footsie closed up 101.5 points at 5197, with even more impressive gains being held back as miners declined alongside metals prices.

President Bush's pleas last night for urgent action on the $700bn (€474bn) plan appeared to have renewed hope among investors that politicians may be closer to agreement.

Barclays was the Footsie's best performing bank, up 24.5p to 370p, with Royal Bank of Scotland not far behind, up 10.5p to 220.5p.

HBOS gained 3.5p to 184p, and its acquirer Lloyds TSB was also in the black despite a downgrade from broker Deutsche Bank. Shares added 6.25p to 273.25p.

But second-tier stock Bradford & Bingley, which announced plans to cut 370 jobs today, fell amid concerns over rising interbank lending rates and fears it will not attract a buyer.

Shares sunk 15%, or 3.75p to 21.25p, although the decline largely came before the bank's job cuts were revealed.

Insurers provided many of the best-performing blue chips, with the sector buoyed by some positive comments from the boss of European insurance titan Axa.

More Than owner RSA Insurance was up 11% or 15.9p to 159.4p, followed by Norwich Union group Aviva, up 10%, or 48.75p to 540p. Car insurance specialist Admiral also moved ahead, adding 53p to 1010p.

A downgrade from broker Investec left holiday company Thomas Cook under a cloud, as its shares slipped 4% or 9p to 214.5p. Rival TUI Travel escaped the damage after being identified as Investec's pick of the sector, causing its shares to rise 12p to 218p.

The likes of BG Group and Cairn Energy were also on weaker ground as oil prices eased back slightly. BG slipped 17p to 1128p, with Cairn 35p worse off at 2284p.

Retailers, too, were on the back foot after reports that evidence of firms sharing price information has come to light during an Office of Fair Trading investigation into alleged competition law breaches with the sector. Tesco fell 9.3p to 373p, and Marks & Spencer 3.25p to 228p.

FTSE 250 broadcaster ITV was on better ground after watchdog Ofcom indicated it may reduce the broadcaster's public service obligations. Shares ended 1.25p higher at 43.5p - a rise of 3%.

The Footsie's four biggest risers were Old Mutual, up 9.8p to 87.8p, RSA Insurance up 15.9p to 159.4p, Aviva up 48.75p to 540p, and Legal & General, which ended the day 9.8p up at 109.8p.

The four biggest fallers were Eurasian Natural Resources, down 40p at 595p, Man Group down 25.25p to 382.75p, London Stock Exchange down 48.5p to 834p, and British Airways which closed down 8.8p to 198.7p.

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