Little movement for FTSE

Banking shares kept the London market aloft today following bullish comment on the sector from investment brokers.

Little movement for FTSE

Banking shares kept the London market aloft today following bullish comment on the sector from investment brokers.

But the FTSE 100 Index closed just 3.7 points higher at 5914.2, as the mining sector came under pressure from softer metal prices and concerns over Japan's nuclear crisis weighed on investors' minds.

The mood was lifted by positive data from the US which revealed consumer spending rose in February at the fastest pace in four months.

The pound was down against the euro at 1.13 ahead of tomorrow's final fourth-quarter GDP revision figures, as worries persist about the sustainability of the UK recovery in the face of rising inflation. However, sterling was up against the US dollar at 1.60.

Banks provided support, aided by positive notes from both Barclays Capital and JP Morgan.

Barclays gained 2.4p at 292.4p, followed by Lloyds Banking Group up 0.5p at 60.6p and Royal Bank of Scotland ahead 0.3p at 42.4p.

Drugs giant AstraZeneca lost earlier gains after UK and US tax authorities reached agreement over the firm's tax affairs in a move that will boost earnings in 2011.

Under the agreement, AstraZeneca will pay out a total of $1.1bn (€780.36m) in taxes, which is less than it had budgeted for. Despite this shares closed 1.5p lower at 2872.5p.

Fashion house Burberry jumped nearly 2% after bank BNP Paribas added it to its list of merger and acquisition targets. Shares were up 31p at 1147p.

Weaker metal prices triggered losses for miners in London as copper giant Kazakhmys was 22p lower at 1425p, platinum group Lonmin fell 29p at 1659p and silver firm Fresnillo dropped 25p at 1535p.

BP continued to suffer after a Swedish tribunal put its £10bn (€11.4bn) deal with Russian government-owned Rosneft on hold because of a dispute with shareholders at Russian partner TNK-BP.

The deal - hailed by BP as "groundbreaking" when unveiled in January - would have paved the way for BP and Rosneft to jointly explore the south Kara Sea in the Russian Arctic. Shares fell another 6.5p to 477.1p.

Elsewhere, shares in Irn-Bru maker AG Barr rose after it reported a 13.3% rise in annual profits and confirmed current year sales continued to rise.

The business - which also makes Tizer - said like-for-like sales rose by more than 10% for the second year running, helping it deliver underlying pre-tax profits of £31.6m (€35.9m) in the year to January 29. Shares were up 46p at 1201p.

Shares at the publisher of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday fell after it revealed nearly 200 fresh job cuts at its newspaper publishing arm and a worsening performance at its regional business. Daily Mail and General Trust shares dropped 3.9p to 499.1p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Resolution up 8.1p at 289.9p, Burberry ahead 31p at 1147p, ARM Holdings up 13.5p at 558.5p and International Power up 6.9p at 314.1p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Intercontinental Hotels down 48p at 1229p, Man Group off 5.5p at 244.5p, Randgold Resources down 98p at 4638p and Lonmin off 29p at 1659p.

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