FTSE down slightly

Forecast-beating results from Prudential and a potential deal involving Rolls-Royce shielded the FTSE 100 Index from further falls in mining stocks today.

FTSE down slightly

Forecast-beating results from Prudential and a potential deal involving Rolls-Royce shielded the FTSE 100 Index from further falls in mining stocks today.

The sight of Brent crude remaining at $113 a barrel added to market jitters as the top flight index stood 3.9 points lower at 5970.9.

Prudential topped the risers board after the insurer rebuilt bridges with investors by proposing a 20% hike in its full-year dividend.

A 24% rise in operating profits to £1.94bn (€2.25bn) came in ahead of market expectations as the Pru shook off memories of last year's uproar over its botched Asian deal-making. Pru shares rose 4% or 23p to 737p.

Rolls-Royce followed with a rise of 16.75p to 616.25p after the engineering giant joined forces with Daimler to announce an offer worth €3.2bn for German industrial engines maker Tognum.

Rolls said the proposed transaction bolstered its position in a global market worth more than €30bn a year.

Commodity-based stocks were under pressure for a second successive session following yesterday's disappointment over results from Antofagasta. Industry powerhouse BHP Billiton dropped 28.25p to 1414.75p, while in the oil sector BP dropped 2.4p to 188.7p and Royal Dutch Shell slipped 25p to 2143.5p.

Investors were also focused on the retail sector after John Lewis announced a 20% rise in full-year profits and said gross sales for the first five weeks of the new financial year were up 6.5%.

This cheered other major players in the sector, with Marks & Spencer up 6.15p to 344.65p and Next ahead 19.5p to 1953.5p, a rise of 1%.

Elsewhere, shares in Tullow Oil fell 28p to 1432p despite full-year results showing pre-tax profits jumped to US$152m in 2010. While revenues were ahead of expectations, analysts expressed concern at the impact higher costs were having on the oil and gas exploration group.

In another busy session for corporate results, shares in Restaurant Group jumped 8% after the owner of Frankie & Benny's and Chiquito reported a 17% rise in full-year profits and a 13% hike in its annual dividend.

Analysts at Panmure Gordon said the figures were ahead of market expectations, while there was also encouragement from current rates of trading. Shares responded with a gain of 24.75p to 304.55p.

Other stocks to enjoy a post-results boost included car retailer Lookers, which improved 2% or 1.5p to 63.25p after it announced profits jumped to £33.6m (€39.1m) from £11.5m (€13.4m) a year earlier.

The record result came despite the end of the car scrappage scheme in the UK.

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