FTSE on the up

British Airways and Iberia owner International Airlines Group (IAG) lifted nearly 7% today as the business posted better-than-expected results.

FTSE on the up

British Airways and Iberia owner International Airlines Group (IAG) lifted nearly 7% today as the business posted better-than-expected results.

IAG improved on a day when the top-flight fell following disappointing jobs data from the US, while other high-profile corporate results saw William Hill and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) slide.

The FTSE 100 Index in London had reached its highest level since May on Thursday but was off 34.1 points at 6647.9 at the close today.

French and German markets were flat while in New York the Dow Jones Industrial Average drifted lower after the monthly increase in payroll numbers slowed to 162,000 in July, the slowest improvement since March and below expectations. Previous months' increases were revised downwards.

The US weakness saw the pound up two cents against the dollar to $1.53 at the close, while sterling rose one cent against the euro, to €1.51.

In London, Royal Bank of Scotland was in the spotlight after the part-nationalised bank promoted its retail boss Ross McEwan to chief executive and announced pre-tax profits of £1.4bn against losses of £1.7bn a year earlier.

But with much more still to be done in the turnaround, the shares were 11p lower at 322.5p, having risen by 5% on the back of Lloyds results yesterday.

The stock is a long way below the 407p minimum break-even price for the Government to recoup its cash from the bank's £45bn bail-out and even further from the 471p actual average price paid.

In contrast, Lloyds is well above the 61p minimum level at which the State would break even on its bailout.

It fell 0.3p to 73.7p today but that still matches the average price paid at the time of the bank's £20.3bn government bail out, fuelling speculation that British Chancellor George Osborne could launch an initial sale of up to £5bn of Lloyds shares within the next week.

William Hill was 36p lower at 478.5p after reporting a 4% rise in half-year underlying profits to £156.2m, driven by substantial growth in online and mobile gambling.

The performance in over-the-counter betting was resilient, despite the absence of a major football tournament this year.

The slide in its shares comes as investors take profits after a strong run for the company, which has outperformed Ladbrokes in recent times. Its big rival is due to report results next week and was 3.3p lower at 214.2p today.

The share price gain for International Airlines Group came despite a big half-year loss due to restructuring costs at Spanish carrier Iberia.

However analysts were impressed with operating profits of €245m for the last quarter as chief executive Willie Walsh reduces capacity at Iberia and cuts costs.

Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Robin Byde noted a "good turnaround at Iberia supported by positive trading at BA" as shares rose 19.9p to 317p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were International Airlines Group up 19.9p to 317p, Rexam up 9p to 515p, Weir Group climbing 36p to 2239p and Smith & Nephew up 12.5p to 800p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were William Hill down 36p to 458.5p, Smiths Group off 77p at 1320p, Randgold Resources down 197p to 4717p and Fresnillo down 43p to 1041p.

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