Rise for FTSE

Commodity and banking stocks briefly pushed the FTSE 100 Index past the 5900 mark today before it slipped back again.

Rise for FTSE

Commodity and banking stocks briefly pushed the FTSE 100 Index past the 5900 mark today before it slipped back again.

The Footsie shrugged off rising tensions in Korea and the ongoing sovereign debt crisis in Europe to close 19 points higher at 5891.6.

Hopes that an extension to tax cuts in the US signed off by President Barack Obama on Friday will lead to economic growth boosted sentiment and offset the impact of icy weather on travel and retail stocks.

The pound was up against the euro at 1.18, as the single currency continues to struggle in the face of debt worries. The pound was also up against the dollar at 1.55.

With passengers stranded at airports across the country, British Airways closed at the top of the fallers' board, 5p lower at 265.2p.

The snow and ice also meant many shoppers were unable to reach the high street on what is normally one of the busiest weekends of the year for UK retailers.

Next dropped 17p to 1968p, while Marks & Spencer slipped 2.5p to 372.9p and Tesco dropped 3.3p to 430.1p. Other notable fallers included Whitbread - the owner of coffee shop chain Costa and Beefeater restaurants - which declined 4p to 1801p.

Outside the top flight, Dixons Retail Group dropped 1.5p to 22.8p and HMV Group, owner of book shop Waterstone's, fell 2.6p to 28.9p. JD Sports Fashion weathered the storm as shares in the highly-rated retailer rose 30p to 890.5p.

The US tax deal was enough to bring traders' attention away from the eurozone debt crisis, despite Moody's downgrading a number of Irish banks.

The banking sector consequently enjoyed a better session, after Friday's warning from Lloyds Banking Group that it would take additional bad debt charges on its £26bn (€30.76bn) Irish loan book.

Lloyds fought back from earlier losses and added 0.4p to 66.9p, as Barclays also recovered from a weak start to stand 1.3p higher at 261p.

Royal Bank of Scotland, which also has extensive exposure to Ireland, gained 0.6p to 38.5p as it recouped losses seen before the weekend.

Investors were also focused on the gambling sector after Ladbrokes confirmed it was in talks over a possible deal to buy online firm 888 Holdings.

The takeover interest, which is reportedly priced at around £240m (€284m), would allow Ladbrokes to strengthen its online offer, which industry insiders say has lagged behind those of its rivals.

Shares in 888 jumped 18% or 8.8p to 57.6p and Sportingbet rose 0.7p to 59.7p on hopes of further consolidation in the sector. But Ladbrokes investors were non-plussed by the potential deal as shares slipped 1.5p to 126p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Schroders up 42p at 1440p, BT ahead 4.7p at 187.1p, Petrofac up 38p at 1551p and Aggreko ahead 36p at 1570p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were British Airways down 5p at 265.2p, Autonomy off 23p at 1520p, Vedanta down 27p at 2395p and Shire off 14p at 1516p.

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