FTSE on the front foot

The FTSE 100 Index was buoyed by a much-needed session on the front foot today as attention turned to a key meeting of US policymakers later this week,

FTSE on the front foot

The FTSE 100 Index was buoyed by a much-needed session on the front foot today as attention turned to a key meeting of US policymakers later this week,

Analysts are increasingly optimistic that Federal Reserve members will play down the prospect of an imminent cut in emergency support for the country’s economy recovery.

The speculation cheered Tokyo’s Nikkei index, which was up by more than 2%, while the FTSE 100 Index rallied 54.3 points to 6363.1 as investors looked to make up for recent heavy losses.

Defensive stocks were in favour among London investors, with credit checking firm Experian up 2% or 22.5p to 1169.5p and household goods firm Reckitt Benckiser 123.5p stronger at 4702.5p.

Other blue-chip risers during a quiet session for corporate news included Vodafone, which rose 5p to 185.1p. The improvement came amid reports that the UK mobile phone company will have to spend as much as £9.3 billion to land Germany’s largest cable TV operator, Kabel Deutschland.

Analysts are worried that the company’s interest signals an expensive acquisition spree for similar assets across Europe.

Retail stocks were also doing well, with Marks & Spencer up 7.9p to 456.3p and Sainsbury’s 5.85p higher at 375.65p in the week that the supermarket chain plans to relaunch fashion brand Tu.

The range was launched in 2004 and is now the seventh largest in the UK clothing market in volume terms, having generated sales of £680 million last year.

Primark owner Associated British Foods, which also has the brands Ryvita and Ovaltine in its portfolio, was 48p lower at 1734p after broker Nomura downgraded its price target on the stock due to the volatile pricing outlook for the company’s sugar business.

Majestic Wine shares were 1.75p lower at 453p, even though it announced a small rise in full-year profits and said it was well-placed to maximise sales over the important summer trading period.

Chief executive Steve Lewis added that the key elements of the company’s growth strategy, including the expansion of its estate to as many as 330 locations, were in place. Broker Investec added that today’s results were a good performance given the volatile trading conditions.

Elsewhere in the City, investors were digesting the news that celebrated fund manager Anthony Bolton is to stand down as portfolio manager for Fidelity China Special Situations. He will be succeeded by Dale Nicholls.

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