Oil price increase nudges Ftse into positive territory

The London market edged back into positive territory as a rise in the price of oil eased the pressure on top-flight stocks.

Benchmark Brent crude stepped up nearly 1% to $44.35 (€39.20) a barrel, rebounding from earlier falls when Kuwait oil workers called off a three-day strike, which had been keeping oil prices afloat after talks on a production freeze ended in stalemate over the weekend.

The Ftse 100 was up 4.9 points to 6410.3, having hit a fresh four-month high on Tuesday, closing above 6400 for the first time since early December.

Germany’s Dax was up 0.7% and the Cac 40 in France climbed 0.6%. The Iseq index, meanwhile, fell 41.41 points (-0.66%) to end the session at 6,212.40

Telecoms giant BT and Paddy Power-Betfair were among the biggest fallers after being hit with broker downgrades, dropping 12.9p to 438.3p and 405p to 8925p respectively Jefferies cut its recommendation on BT to hold from buy and said the outlook for BT is looking increasingly uncertain.

Meanwhile, Credit Suisse handed Paddy Power-Betfair an under-perform recommendation because it said the benefits of its recent tie-up had been “exaggerated” by the market.

Apple chipmaker ARM Holdings fell back from gains earlier in the session amid investor concerns over a slowdown in the smartphone market. Shares were down 10p to 954p despite posting a forecast-beating 14% hike in underlying first-quarter profits to £137.5m (€174.7m).

Elsewhere, Punch Taverns surged more than 11% or 11.5p to 108.5p, as it insisted it was making good progress on its strategy despite revealing underlying earnings fell from £105m to £94m in the first half of the year.

The firm said it had sold off a number of less profitable pubs as it attempted to cut its £1.4 billion debt pile.

Online fashion group N Brown was the biggest faller in the Ftse 250 Index, plunging more than 12% after it reported a 2% fall in annual underlying pre-tax profits to £84.5m and said trading since the year end had been “subdued”. Shares dropped 40.6p to 275p.

Metro Bank was 33p higher at 2040p as it kicked off life as a listed company with a record first-quarter performance and narrowed losses.

The challenger bank, which floated in March, trimmed underlying losses by 7% to £7.9 m, although £3.2m in costs for its stock market listing saw it post bottom-line losses of £11.1m.

It said customer savings deposits surged by £790m in the first three months of 2016 to £5.9bn and attracted a record 62,000 new customers in the quarter, while net lending more than doubled year on year to £4.1bn.

The biggest risers in the Ftse were Anglo American up 39.5p to 792p, Rio Tinto up 90.5p to 2423.5p, BHP Billiton up 32.5p to 997p, and Standard Chartered up 17.1p to 559p.

The biggest fallers were Hargreaves Lansdown down 61p to 1314p, Paddy Power Betfair down 405p to 8925p, BT Group down 12.9p to 438.3p, and Associated British Foods down 83p to 3330p.


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