Positive US data boosts markets

Positive US data boosts markets

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The FTSE 100 Index gained 62 points to 5642.6

A raft of positive data in the US has strengthened global markets in the face of continued concerns over tensions on the Korean peninsula and the eurozone debt crisis.

Wall Street’s Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 0.8% after two different reports revealed Americans earned more and spent more last month and the number of people applying for unemployment benefits dropped last week to a two-year low.

The positive sentiment rippled across the Atlantic, where the London market gained 62 points to 5642.6, as the banking sector resisted pressure piled on by the ongoing problems in Ireland.

The US Commerce Department revealed consumers boosted their spending by 0.4% in October, while incomes rose 0.5%. The Labour Department said benefit claims dropped by 34,000 to 407,000 in the week ending November 20.

The FTSE 100 Index continued to make progress after the Irish Government unveiled a raft of budget measures to restore the State’s finances by 2014. The government is also negotiating a bail-out package with the EU and IMF, expected to be worth about 85 billion euros (£71 billion).

Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, which both have significant ties to the Irish economy, moved ahead more than 2% and 1% respectively.

Insurers dominated the fallers board following a Morgan Stanley downgrade for Aviva, which slumped 5.7p to 377.6p, a drop of around 1.5%. Prudential declined 1p to 589.5p and Resolution fell 0.5p to 226.3p, while in the banking sector Barclays dropped 2.8p to 267p.

On a brighter note, shares in catering giant Compass were more than 5% or 28p higher at 555.5p after it smashed expectations with an operating profits rise of 13% to £1 billion. It also announced a 33% jump in its full dividend to 17.5p a share.

In the FTSE 250 Index, buy-to-let lender Paragon rose 8.5p to 168p as it reported a 32% rise in profits and said it was confident about demand in the sector as it prepares to ramp up lending.

Provident Financial, which operates in the door-step lending sector, saw an even bigger gain after revealing a further improvement in trends in its home credit division. Sales in the 12 weeks since the beginning of September were up by around 7% on a year ago, leading to a shares rise of 65p to 840p.

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