US quantitative easing boosts world markets

Global stock markets powered ahead today on renewed hopes America's money-printing presses will continue to roll.

US quantitative easing boosts world markets

Global stock markets powered ahead today on renewed hopes America's money-printing presses will continue to roll.

Upbeat US earnings and better-than-expected American jobs data added to the cheer, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 0.7% in early trading to hit a record high.

That boosted gains across Europe, sending the FTSE 100 Index 62.4 points higher to 6634.4, while the Dax in Germany lifted 1% and France's Cac 40 rose 1.2%.

Markets started on the front foot after US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's comments yesterday that there was no "preset course" for ending the vast quantitative easing drive, saying the Fed wants to see substantial progress in the American jobs market before scaling back asset buying.

Improving UK retail sales added to the momentum today, with official figures showing a 0.2% month-on-month improvement in June, building on a 2.1% rise in May.

That boosted UK growth hopes, ahead of second quarter figures due out next week, and helped nudge the pound up against the euro to 1.16, although sterling was slightly weaker against the dollar at 1.52.

Advertising and marketing giant WPP was one of London's biggest risers after French rival Publicis said half-year profits rose 15% to €314m, adding that recent signs of economic slowdown in China and Brazil were not impacting on its business.

The update came as a relief to investors in the world's biggest advertising firm - owner of agencies Ogilvy & Mather and Burson-Marsteller - as WPP is due to post its own half-year figures next month. Shares rose 42p to 1210p, up 3.6%.

The biggest rise in the top flight came from London Stock Exchange after it reported a 39% rise in first quarter revenues and said it was well placed to build on its positive start to the financial year.

Shares lifted 110p to 1590p as revenues were up 8% on an organic basis when excluding the first time addition of clearing house LCH.Clearnet.

Other notable gains in the FTSE 100 included budget airline easyJet, up 56p to 1406p, and Marks & Spencer up 8.8p to 482.4p on the revival of vague bid rumours, with US suitors said to be in the frame this time.

Outside the top flight, shares in Sports Direct International were up 6.2%, or 37.5p to 638p, after it reported a 40% leap in pre-tax profits to £207.2 million for the year to April 28.

It is more good news for staff as under a 2009 incentive scheme 2,000 employees are due to be rewarded with a typical pay-out of 12,000 shares - worth more than £68,000 - next month.

But baby goods retailer Mothercare fell 7p to 463pp, as it emerged that UK sales were 0.9% lower on a like-for-like basis in the 15 weeks to July 13, reflecting a "very competitive" market.

Analysts at N+1 Singer said Mothercare's recovery remained on track despite the competitive UK market, adding that first quarter sales were likely to have been hit by the timing of Easter.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were the London Stock Exchange up 110p to 1590p, easyJet 56p firmer to 1406p, Aberdeen Asset Management ahead 16.5p to 414.7p and Royal Bank of Scotland up 12.8p to 334.4p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Sage down 5p to 357.1p, Fresnillo off 11p to 1031p, Randgold Resources 46p weaker to 4457p and Tate & Lyle down 8p to 851.5p.

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