Little movement for FTSE

The FTSE 100 Index struggled to make headway today in spite of a raft of broker upgrades and signs of life in the DIY sector.

The FTSE 100 Index struggled to make headway today in spite of a raft of broker upgrades and signs of life in the DIY sector.

ITV's shares surged 13% on hopes of a recovery for the media sector next year, while Credit Suisse upped its ratings on a host of utilities.

However, the wider Footsie closed near to its opening mark - up 4.5 points at 4416.2 - as investors paused for breath after posting strong gains on Tuesday due to better than expected US consumer confidence figures.

America's Dow Jones Industrial Average saw a more lacklustre opening today, as it also failed to make advances.

However, it was a significant day for the pound and oil prices, with sterling breaking through the US$1.6 (€1.84) barrier for the first time in seven months and the cost of crude hitting a new six-month high.

Among London stocks, those in the home improvement sector cheered on recovery signs from small cap Topps Tiles.

Mortgage figures showing lending at an eight-year low failed to dampen the mood, particularly for Home Retail Group, which lifted 8.75p to 235.25p.

Topps cheered 13.5p to 78p after it said current like-for-like sales were down 11.9%, against a fall of 18.5% in its first half.

The performance also offered encouragement for B&Q firm Kingfisher, up 4.6p to 181.9p.

In the FTSE 250, beleaguered ITV has been hit badly by the downturn but Goldman Sachs' more positive view of the outlook helped shares 3.5p up to 31.5p. Small cap Johnston Press, another stock favoured by Goldman, added 0.25p to 24.25p.

In the top flight, Severn Trent surged up the leaders' board, gaining 19p to 1158p, following the Credit Suisse note. United Utilities, which is due to post figures tomorrow, rose 1p to 543p.

Despite Home Retail's strong improvement, the performance of the rest of the retail sector was mixed, with Next down 25p at 1452p and Marks & Spencer 1.75p lower at 286p, a fall of nearly 1%. DSG International was 0.5p higher at 23.75p in the FTSE 250.

Among the banks, Lloyds Banking Group was a top-flight faller, off 1.3p at 65.5p after Nationwide warned of tough conditions ahead and the squeeze on profits from lower savings margins and increased bad debts.

In other corporate news, Jessops shares tumbled 63% after the company said any debt restructuring of its business would leave shareholders with nothing. It also reported losses of £6.3m (€7.26m) for the six months to March 31, as the beleaguered stock slipped 4.2p to 2.43p.

Tool hire specialist Speedy Hire also fell 12.25p to 176p after it revealed a bottom-line loss of £70.6m (€81.36m) and said recent trading had been more subdued than anticipated.

The biggest Footsie risers were Intercontinental Hotels up 38p at 675p, Man Group ahead 12.75p at 250p, Old Mutual up 3.4p at 73.5p and Thomas Cook up 9p at 233.75p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Lonmin down 55p at 1301p, Fresnillo off 28.5p at 679p, Legal & General down 1.8p at 61.9p and Cobham down 4.7p at 181.5p.

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