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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

FTSE gains despite Korea tensions

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The FTSE 100 Index stood 33.2 points higher at 5614.2 by mid-session

The London market made tentative gains despite continued tensions on the Korean peninsula and further worries over the eurozone debt crisis.

Analysts said confidence in the FTSE 100 Index, which slid 99 points on Tuesday to its lowest point in seven weeks, remained fragile as the financial sector continued to show signs of pressure amid uncertainty in Ireland.

The top flight stood 33.2 points higher at 5614.2, although a large batch of economic data due in the US ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday meant the City was on standby for movement in either direction.

Insurers dominated the fallers board following a Morgan Stanley downgrade for Aviva, which slumped 5.5p to 377.8p, a drop of around 1.5%. Prudential declined 3.5p to 641.5p and Resolution fell 1.5p to 225.3p, while in the banking sector Barclays dropped 2.65p to 261.6p.

On a brighter note, shares in catering giant Compass were 4% or 21.5p higher at 549p 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.

There were further signs of recovery for shares in Rolls-Royce after the manufacturing giant announced it will provide long term services support for engines powering 50 aircraft belonging to Emirates.

The deal worth 1.2 billion US dollars (£750 million) is more good news for Rolls after two major orders from China in recent weeks offset the damage to investor confidence caused by the failure of an engine on board a Qantas superjumbo. The stock rose 13.5p to 612p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, buy-to-let lender Paragon rose 5p to 164.5p 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 59.5p to 834.5p.

Elsewhere in the FTSE 250 Index, housebuilders remained under pressure amid continued concern over levels of activity in the new homes sector. Taylor Wimpey fell 0.7p to 23.6p, Bellway dropped 8p to 503p and Barratt Developments eased 1.5p to 69.5p.

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