FTSE sees highest close since 2008

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The FTSE 100 closed up 60.2 points at 5951.8

A strong run for mining stocks helped the FTSE 100 Index push above the 5950 mark for the first time since June 2008.

The London market closed 60.2 points up at 5951.8 – despite a warning from key agency Moody’s that it may lower Portugal’s credit rating. The blow comes just days after a similar move by the credit ratings agency on Spain.

The pound fell against the dollar at 1.54 and was down against the euro at 1.17 after UK public finance figures came in much worse than expected at £23.3 billion in November – a monthly record – but higher metal and oil prices boosted commodity stocks, while banking giants also made decent gains following a poor run sparked by fears of European debt contagion.

Royal Bank of Scotland finished at the top of the risers’ board, up more than 4% or 1.7p to 40.2p, while Barclays added 7.4p to 268.4p. Lloyds, which spooked investors on Friday after it highlighted the impact of Ireland’s mounting debt crisis on its books, also made headway, up 1.6p to 68.5p.

Miners likewise dominated the risers’ board, with Anglo American up 131p to 3272.5p, Xstrata up 51p to 1506p and Eurasian Natural Resources ahead 31.5p to 1031p.

Rolls-Royce saw shares gained 13p to 650p after the European Aviation Safety Agency said it was set to relax tight inspection rules imposed on its Trent 900 engines. The rules were set last month after a Trent 900 on a Qantas A380 superjumbo blew apart on take-off from Singapore.

But thin trading volumes in the lead up to the Christmas holidays were also thought to be behind volatility.

The surge came despite news of more woes in the retail sector after small cap stock Alexon, the owner of Ann Harvey, Dash and Kaliko brands, issued a profits warning following snow-hit sales. Alexon’s shares plummeted 18% or 2.8p to 12.3p after it reported a 20% plunge in sales over the past few weeks.

The figures confirmed the problems experienced by retailers across the country as snow and ice keeps shoppers away from stores in what should be the busiest week of the year.

The biggest Footsie risers were Royal Bank of Scotland up 1.8p at 40.2p, Anglo American ahead 131p at 3272.5p, Carnival up 104p at 2905p and Xstrata ahead 51p at 1506p. The biggest Footsie fallers were Aggreko down 46p at 1524p, Randgold Resources off 110p at 5490p, Cairn Energy down 5.3p at 415p and BG Group off 14.5p at 1317p.

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