Welcome gains for FTSE

The FTSE 100 Index made welcome gains today as oil giant BP also pulled out of its recent steep declines.

The FTSE 100 Index made welcome gains today as oil giant BP also pulled out of its recent steep declines.

London’s Footsie rose 59.9 points to 5211.2, having started the day on the front foot as a bigger-than-expected rise in US home sales lifted the mood on Wall Street overnight.

But the market eased from a near-2% gain earlier in the session due to an indecisive start to trading on America’s Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The Dow had surged initially because of positive US jobs news, but data showing a weaker-than-expected performance from the manufacturing sector soon pared back the gains.

It was also another difficult day for the euro, which fell against the pound and the dollar as persistent eurozone concerns failed to budge.

Sterling gained 0.2% to 1.20 euros, while the single currency slipped to just below 1.22 dollars.

However, it was a better day for BP in a much-needed positive session for the stock.

BP shares have slumped in value by more than a third following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

But the stock started to rally last night and closed up 2.5p to 432.3p today as the group also benefited from an increase in the price of oil to 74 US dollars a barrel at one stage, despite downgrades for the company from ratings agencies.

Many miners were also on the rise thanks to firmer base metal prices, although it was a mixed session for the sector and gold miner Randgold Resources was among a handful of blue chips in the red.

It fell 155p to 5975p as investors moved their money out of the traditional safe haven.

In a quiet session for corporate news, shares in B&Q owner Kingfisher were 3% higher as the company overcame the impact of poor seasonal weather to post a 13% rise in first quarter UK profits. The stock rose 5.8p to 229.6p.

Chemicals firm Johnson Matthey enjoyed a similar rise after it reported a slight fall in full-year profits, but said the new financial year had got off to a good start. Shares were 15p higher at 1570p.

A raft of commodity stocks rose because of more positive economic news as well as comments from one broker that the Australian government could compromise on its planned super-tax on the mining sector.

Petrofac soared 59p to 1199p, while Eurasian Natural Resources gained 42.5p to 1031p.

Broker upgrades also accounted for many risers, with advertising giant WPP adding 22.5p to 669.5p after UBS rated the firm a buy.

Insurer Aviva was another beneficiary after Daiwa analysts said the firm was likely to gain from the refocusing of investor attention on the UK life sector following the collapse of Prudential’s bid for AIA. Aviva was 13.2p dearer at 339.1p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Petrofac up 59p to 1199p, Arm Holdings ahead 12.7p to 267.9p, Eurasian Natural Resources up 42.5p to 1031p and Aviva up 13.2p to 339.1p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Randgold Resources down 155p to 5975p, BHP Billiton off 16.5p to 1839.5p, Xstrata down 6.5p to 985.5p and BAE Systems off 1.4p to 324.2p.

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