FTSE on the rise

Lloyds Banking Group bucked an improved trend for the London market today after the part-nationalised bank posted a £6.3bn (€7bn) annual loss.

Lloyds Banking Group bucked an improved trend for the London market today after the part-nationalised bank posted a £6.3bn (€7bn) annual loss.

Shares fell 5% or 2.7p to 52.2p as the bank counted the cost of a staggering £24bn (€26.8bn) in bad debts, mainly stemming from rescued bank HBOS.

The Footsie was 54.4 points up at 5332.6 after solid economic data on both sides of the Atlantic shored up investor confidence.

UK output figures showed better than expected 0.3% growth during the final quarter of 2009, while the US government said GDP grew at an annual pace of 5.9%, above the previous estimate of 5.7%.

US stocks were mixed after insurer AIG reported a larger than expected fourth-quarter loss.

The pound continued to struggle against the dollar despite the GDP figures, as concerns over the poor state of the public finances and the prospect of a hung parliament overrode any relief at the stronger than expected growth.

Firmer metal prices meant miners dominated the risers board, with Vedanta Resources up 53p to 2517p, Rio Tinto 67.5p better off at 3318p and Antofagasta up 33p at 1340p.

Outsourcing firm Serco led the way after full-year profits rose 30% and it increased its dividend by a quarter. Shares responded with a 6% rise, up 33.5p to 555p.

Insurance firm Aviva followed close behind with a 12.6p gain to 385.6p despite ING brokers cutting their target price on the firm ahead of next week's results. ING expects a dividend cut and said the group faced increasing challenges in its core business.

Lloyds topped the fallers' board although analysts said there were some encouraging signs after the trend for bad debts improved in the second half of the year.

Royal Bank of Scotland also dropped 0.9p to 37.5p or 2% following its own results yesterday, where a lower than expected annual loss triggered a 6% share rise. Barclays dropped 0.2p to 306.7p.

Telecoms firms were also having a tricky session, with Vodafone off 1.3p to 141p, BT down 2.5p to 115p and Cable & Wireless 1.2p lower at 135.7p.

Property website Rightmove was the biggest FTSE 250 riser, powering ahead 37p to 635p or 6% as brokers reviewed their forecasts following yesterday's better than expected results.

It was followed higher in the second tier by Misys, which provides IT services to the banking industry. Morgan Stanley lifted its target price on the stock, helping shares up 5% or 10.9p to 225.7p.

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