Small gain for FTSE

London's leading shares index closed above the 5,700 mark for the first time in nearly three months today but global growth fears continued to spook investors.

Small gain for FTSE

London's leading shares index closed above the 5,700 mark for the first time in nearly three months today but global growth fears continued to spook investors.

The World Bank rattled traders after it cut growth forecasts for developing countries this year to 5.4% from 6.2% and for developed countries to 1.4% from 2.7% amid the eurozone debt crisis.

But the FTSE 100 Index closed 8.4 points higher at 5702.4 - the first time it had closed above the 5,700 mark since October 27 - after strong US manufacturing figures gave hope that the world's biggest economy was making progress.

The London market failed to make significant headway amid nervousness as Greece returned to talks with lenders in the hope of writing off half of its debts. The negotiations are crucial if a default is to be avoided.

With jitters about the strength of the global economy growing, the International Monetary Fund said it aimed to raise an additional $500bn (€388.8bn) to help protect weaker economies.

The pound was weakened by unemployment figures for the UK revealing a further surge in the jobless count, falling against the euro at 1.20, but was higher against the US dollar at 1.53.

Banking stocks reversed earlier losses after US giant Goldman Sachs posted a 47% drop in net earnings to $4.4bn (€3.42bn) for the year to December 31. This followed a 26% decline in revenues to $28.8bn (€22.4bn).

But with the results largely better than expectations, Lloyds Banking Group was up 0.1p at 29.6p and Barclays rose 1.9p to 201.1p.

Royal Bank of Scotland, which has enjoyed a positive run in recent sessions, was flat at 24.8p. It was not noticeably impacted after its insurance firms Direct Line and Churchill were fined £2.17m (€2.6m) for fudging complaint files, including signature forgery.

Hedge fund giant Man Group was among the biggest risers after it said it would cut more jobs as the size of its funds declined amid market volatility.

The group, which employs around 1,500 staff worldwide, said it is planning a further $75m (€58.3m) of cost savings in 2012.

It reported that funds under management fell a further 9% in the three months to December 31 to $58.4m (€45.4m) as markets continued to swing wildly in the quarter, with the ongoing eurozone crisis hitting consumer confidence.

Shares rose 7.3p to 114.4p.

In a thin session for corporate news, pubs chain JD Wetherspoon was flat after it offset like-for-like sales growth of 3.6% for the second quarter with a warning that profit margins remained under pressure. The stock was broadly level at 417p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Essar Energy up 9.2p at 136.2p, Man Group ahead 7.3p at 114.4p, Burberry up 43p at 1344p and Carnival ahead 62p at 1971p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Imperial Tobacco down 114p at 2246p, Tullow Oil off 61p at 1394p, Weir Group down 75p at 2025p and RSA Insurance off 2.1p at 107p.

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