FTSE enjoys moderate gain

The FTSE 100 Index made further gains today despite increasing oil prices as traders predicted strong economic data from the US.

FTSE enjoys moderate gain

The FTSE 100 Index made further gains today despite increasing oil prices as traders predicted strong economic data from the US.

The top flight was up 25.2 points to 6030.4 after being boosted by a strong session for Asian markets, where the Hang Seng and the Nikkei rose more than 1% and markets in Europe also made gains.

Though investors are keeping a close watch on developments in Libya as the regime of Muammar Gaddafi clings to power, investors were focused on the US government's non-farm payrolls data for February.

The survey is predicted to show that employers added around 175,000 jobs although some analysts think the figure could be around the 250,000 mark.

Oil prices rose again today fuelled by the ongoing crisis in Libya. Brent crude rose by more than 0.5% to $115.3 but it could not sway the FTSE 100 Index from moving further into positive territory.

Hints from the European Central Bank that a rise in interest rates could be on the cards at its next meeting also failed to derail markets.

The pound was flat against the euro after the single currency surged yesterday on hopes of higher rates, while sterling was up slightly up against the dollar.

Commodity stocks gained as the dollar weakened, with Tullow Oil ahead nearly 2% or 24p to 1490p.

Advertising agency WPP provided the focus for corporate results after the blue-chip company reported a strong end to 2010 and a 27% rise in full-year profits.

It forecast like-for-like revenues growth of 5% this year but shares slipped 3%, or 21.8p to 815p, following a recent strong run.

Outsourcing firm Serco was the biggest riser - up 27.8p to 619.3p - after Espirito Santo Investment Bank predicted earlier this week that it will continue to generate attractive earnings growth.

Engineering firm IMI was also on the risers board - up 16p to 959p - after several brokers raised their ratings, backing the company's three year growth strategy that will see it increase its presence in emerging markets.

Outside the top flight, shares in online grocer Ocado continued their recent improvement after the recently-listed company said it remained profitable in the first quarter of its financial year.

It added that sales increased by 24.7% to £146.2m (€170.35m) in the 12 weeks to February 20. Shares rose 2.4p to 213.2p, or 1%, having been as low as 121p in October.

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