FTSE flat ahead of economic data

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The FTSE 100 Index rose 5 points to 6090.8 in early trading

The London market made a sluggish start as investors paused for breath ahead of a batch of economic figures from the UK and United States.

The FTSE 100 Index stood 5 points higher at 6090.8, as banks continued to ride a wave of confidence in the sector, triggered by upbeat earnings from Barclays and French giant Societe Generale.

The positive start followed a strong session in Asia, where stock markets were buoyed by corporate earnings and the minutes of January’s meeting of the US Federal Reserve, which showed cautious optimism over the economic recovery.

But the London market struggled to make ground as traders awaited inflation and unemployment statistics from the US, as well as the February CBI industrial trends survey in the UK.

Royal Bank of Scotland topped the UK blue-chip index, adding 1.2p to 48.4p, while Barclays was not far behind, up 5.4p at 337.4p, and Lloyds advanced 1p to 68.2p.

B&Q parent Kingfisher took its spot on the risers’ board after it forecast a 20% rise in annual profits. The group said strong international growth had helped to offset continued tough trading in the UK.

BAE Systems sank to the bottom of the Footsie, losing 3% or 11.7p at 344p, after the defence giant warned sales were likely to fall in 2011.

Outside the top flight, Ladbrokes’ shares added 0.2p to 142.2p after the UK’s biggest bookmaker reported a 20% jump in annual profits.

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