FTSE makes positive start

London’s leading shares rose 2% today as traders looked ahead to a strong opening on Wall Street.

London’s leading shares rose 2% today as traders looked ahead to a strong opening on Wall Street.

After sluggish early trading, the FTSE 100 Index was 82.1 points better at 4525.4 by mid-morning amid expectations of a surge for the Dow Jones Industrial Average this afternoon.

The FTSE – looking for its sixth successive session of gains – was helped by advances for many banking stocks and retailers.

High street giant Marks & Spencer made eye-catching gains. with shares up almost 9% today as investors showed their relief at a lower-than-feared drop in the retail giant’s first half profits.

The retailer’s interim profits fell by a third amid the toughest conditions since the early 1990s, but the 34% profits plunge came in just ahead of City estimates, leaving shares 19.25p better at 240.75p.

B&Q owner Kingfisher was another retailer gaining ground, up 9p to 131p, while Next added 58p to 1153p, or 5%.

Among the banks, Halifax Bank of Scotland enjoyed another winning session after write-downs in line with market hopes yesterday. Shares added 9.7p to 115.1p, while merger partner Lloyds TSB was 12.7p better at 210.5p.

Banking giant Royal Bank of Scotland bucked the trend, down more than 5% after it gave a downbeat outlook on trading with more writedowns and caution over full-year figures.

The group’s new chief executive hopes to resume dividends in early 2010 with aims to buy back the Government’s £5bn (€6.2bn) preference share stake soon.

But shares sunk 3.4p to 61.8p on the trading update to send RBS to the top of the FTSE fallers’ board.

In the FTSE 250 Punch Taverns endured similar woes after writing off almost £300m (€372m) on its pubs during a difficult year. Shares shed 7% or 12p to 171.5p, making it the worst performer in the second tier.

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