FTSE on the rise

A strong show from banking stocks offset disappointing trading updates and led the London market higher today.

FTSE on the rise

A strong show from banking stocks offset disappointing trading updates and led the London market higher today.

The FTSE 100 Index rose 13 points to 5807.96 as positive employment data bolstered earlier gains in the session and raised hopes for the global economic recovery.

The US Department of Labor revealed benefit claims dropped last week to 421,000, the second-lowest level this year.

The Bank of England's widely-expected decision to leave interest rates unchanged at 0.5% and quantitative easing at £200bn (€238.4bn) had little impact on the stock market.

But the move prompted a drop in the pound against the euro, at 1.19, and the dollar, at 1.57.

Barclays moved ahead 11.9p to 276p, while part-nationalised banks Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds lifted 1.3p to 42.3p and 0.6p to 68.3p respectively.

Standard Chartered bucked the trend and slipped more than 4% as the bank confirmed its net interest margin had eased and that cost growth was likely to outpace revenue increases.

Shares were down 68p to 1810p despite Standard reassuring investors it was on track to achieve record results in 2010.

Investors were also focused on the latest house price data from Halifax.

The lending giant said property prices fell 0.1% during November, but added there were signs the housing market was stabilising - providing a boost to housebuilding stocks.

Bellway rose 7% or 46p to 662p, Persimmon lifted 17.1p to 427.4 and Barratt Developments added 2.3p to 89p in the FTSE 250.

The sector had already been buoyed by good news earlier this week from Bellway, which said buyer confidence was returning after the spending review.

Equipment hire group Ashtead was top of the FTSE 250 risers after it increased its full-year profit forecast on the back of higher US profits.

The firm's shares rose 10%, up 14.3p to 158p, after it said full-year results would beat its own expectations following a 41% hike in interim profits.

Elsewhere, games and music retailer HMV slumped 17% or 7.3p to 36.5p after reporting widening half-year losses and slashing its dividend.

It also said trading had been hit by the snow at the start of its all-important Christmas trading period.

Imperial Leather maker PZ Cussons was also in the red - down 7.5p to 385.5p - after an update revealed its profits were only marginally up year-on-year and revenues were broadly flat.

Moss Bros was enjoying better fortunes as shares rose 4% thanks to an 8.3% rise in recent like-for-like sales. The menswear retailer saw shares lift 1p to 25p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Barclays up 11.9p at 276p, Cobham ahead 7.2p at 203.6p, BG Group up 46p at 1333.5p and Royal Bank of Scotland ahead 1.4p at 42.3p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Smith & Nephew down 26p at 636p, Standard Chartered off 68p at 1810p, Invensys down 11.6p at 333.7p and Weir off 59p at 1756p.

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