FTSE in positive territory

London’s blue chip share index pushed into positive territory today after the Bank of England held steady on its monetary policy and financial firms climbed.

London’s blue chip share index pushed into positive territory today after the Bank of England held steady on its monetary policy and financial firms climbed.

Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays were the banking sector’s biggest gainers, adding 6% and 5% respectively, changing direction from losses earlier in the week.

The FTSE 100 Index closed up 40.5 points at 5244.4 after the Bank chose to leave its quantitative easing programme at £200 billion and keep rates at their record low level.

Banks set the pace as the Footsie closed in positive territory for the first time this week.

David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index, said: “Today has seemed to be more about shorter term bargain hunting rather than the return of buyers in any great numbers – and it could well be a theme that plays out over the next couple of weeks in the run up to Christmas.”

Wall Street opened higher as improved US trade figures offset disappointing employment data.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.75% in early trade.

Gains for European markets were achieved despite ratings agency Standard & Poor’s decision to lower its outlook on Spain to negative, stoking more debt fears amid warnings about the finances of the UK and the United States.

In London, Lloyds was the market’s biggest riser, with a 3.53p rise to 58.22p, followed by gains for Barclays – up 12.65p to 290.75p – and Royal Bank of Scotland, which gained 1.015p to 31.34p.

Insurers were also higher after Standard Life rallied 8.1p to 207.5p, RSA Insurance added 2.4p to 117.2p and Legal & General lifted 2.7p to 77.25p.

Miners were among the biggest losers of the day.

Water company United Utilities was flat – up 0.4p 493.5p – after it said chief financial officer Tim Weller had agreed to take on the same role at Cable & Wireless Worldwide.

Packaging and office products firm DS Smith rose after it lifted its guidance in the wake of a better than expected first half of its financial year. Profits fell by £10m (€11.04m) to £44.1m (€48.7m) but the company said action taken at the start of the year meant it was well placed to make progress.

Shares jumped 13% or 15.2p to 128.7p as DS Smith climbed the FTSE 250 Index risers board.

Other second tier risers included Game Group, which climbed 4% or 5.1p to 120.6p, after suffering two days of heavy losses in the wake of a disappointing pre-Christmas update.

Fellow retailer Sports Direct International moved in the opposite direction, despite raising profit forecasts for the second time this year, as rival JJB Sports announced it had found a new chief executive.

JJB named Keith Jones, currently group retail director of Currys and PC World parent DSG International, as the next holder of its top job.

Sports Direct shares were off 6.9p at 99.1p, while elsewhere JJB was flat at 25.5p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Lloyds Banking Group up 3.53p to 58.22p, Barclays up 12.65p at 290.75p, Standard Life up 8.1p at 207.5p and Man Group up 11.6p at 315.9p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Xstrata down 22p at 1032p, Land Securities off 12p at 635p, Tullow Oil down 20p at 1252p and Rio Tinto down 45p at 3095p.

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