BA leads FTSE fightback

British Airways shares led a fightback for the FTSE 100 Index today as the flagship airline said it still expected to make a profit in the current financial year.

British Airways shares led a fightback for the FTSE 100 Index today as the flagship airline said it still expected to make a profit in the current financial year.

A relieved City piled into the shares after BA’s half-year operating profits of £140m (€173m), sending the airline more than 16%, or 21.3p, higher at 151.8p.

The wider Footsie recovered some ground after yesterday’s near-6% slump on global recession fears to stand 86.4 points higher at 4358.8 by mid-morning.

Crude oil steadied near $62 a barrel after a four-dollar fall in the previous session. But investors decided several blue-chip stocks were looking cheap and piled into heavyweights such as BP, 24p better at 517p.

A Goldman Sachs note talking up the prospects of the oil and gas explorers meanwhile helped Tullow Oil and Cairn Energy add 34.5p to 570p and 75p to 1686p respectively.

Banks also enjoyed steady gains with Royal Bank of Scotland up 3.5p to 67.4p and Halifax Bank of Scotland adding 4.1p to 107.6p as lenders came under pressure to pass on the Bank of England’s mammoth 1.5% cut.

The dramatic move continued to boost housebuilders and retailers, with fashion chain Next ahead 55p at 1187p and B&Q owner Kingfisher up 5.3p to 127.6p.

Debenhams was meanwhile 1.75p stronger at 36.75p or 5% and Taylor Wimpey 1.75p higher at 15.25p, a rise of 11%.

There was also better news for Rentokil Initial, the pest control and washroom services business. Shares rose 3%, or 1.5p, to 48.25p after its third quarter trading update bucked the company’s recent trend for downgrading profits guidance.

Robert Wiseman Dairies moved in the opposite direction, down 13% or 47.75p to 328.25p, after it warned lower cream prices will impact on profitability in the second half of the financial year. First half operating profits also decreased by 31% to £13.3m (€16.4m).

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