FTSE optimism fizzles out

Early gains fizzled out on the London market today as optimism over a global economic recovery proved hard to sustain.

Early gains fizzled out on the London market today as optimism over a global economic recovery proved hard to sustain.

The FTSE 100 Index soared to the 5600 level at one stage after news of a surprise rebound in China’s exports sparked recovery hopes.

But a lacklustre opening on Wall Street and lingering concerns over last Friday’s disappointing jump in US unemployment figures saw gains ease back, to leave the Footsie closing up 3.8 points at 5538.1.

Miners and energy stocks had been the biggest beneficiaries of economic confidence following the Chinese report, which showed an 18% rise in December exports after 13 months of declines.

A weaker US dollar – down around 0.6% against the pound, at $1.62 - had helped the sector, with oil also pushing up to 84 dollars a barrel at one point.

However, shifting sentiment left miners trailing at the close, while oil also sunk back below $83 a barrel.

Kazakhmys, which had been high up the risers board, closed down 7p at 1492p, with fellow miner Eurasian Natural Resources the biggest Footsie faller, down 24p at 1010p.

Oil companies managed to hold on to most of their gains seen earlier in the session. BP closed up 13.8p to 635.5p and Royal Dutch Shell lifted 18p to 1853p.

But it was the property sector that was the star performer after Goldman Sachs forecast a recovery in European real estate and recommended buying stocks with exposure to the London office market.

Land Securities was the top blue chip gainer after adding 19p to 683p, while British Land gained 12p to 473.4p.

Retail shares also made progress after the run of positive festive trading updates continued with the Co-op and House of Fraser.

Marks & Spencer has been on the back foot in recent days but rallied 8.6p to 375p, while B&Q owner Kingfisher was up 5.2p at 230.8p and Argos owner Home Retail Group added 4.7p to 283.6p ahead of its own trading update later in the week.

In the FTSE 250 Index, Debenhams lifted 2.7p to 78p as analysts said House of Fraser’s 7.1% rise in Christmas sales fuelled expectations of a positive result from the department store group tomorrow.

Elsewhere, Blacks Leisure was another in positive territory, ahead 10% or 4.75p to 54.5p thanks to news that the cold snap had boosted winter sales.

But back in the top flight, insurance stocks and banks were suffering. Part-nationalised Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group dropped 0.14p to 34.98p and 0.77p to 56.13p respectively as they pulled back after a recent strong rebound.

The biggest Footsie risers were Land Securities up 19p at 683p, TUI Travel ahead 7.1p at 271p, British Land up 12p at 473.4p and BG Group up 29p at 1223p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Eurasian Natural Resources down 24p at 1010p, Standard Chartered off 34p at 1590p, Legal & General down 1.75p at 82.55p and SAB Miller down 37p at 1801p.

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