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FTSE steady ahead of ECB decision

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The FTSE 100 Index stood 39 points higher at 5681.4

The London market has remained steady with traders looking to the European Central Bank to soothe fears over the deepening debt crisis in the eurozone.

The FTSE 100 Index lifted 39 points to 5681.4 amid hopes that the ECB will step up its Government bond-buying programme at its latest rate-setting meeting.

Pressure has mounted since Ireland sought a financial bailout from the EU last month, fuelling fears that other nations – particularly Portugal and Spain – will follow in its footsteps.

Investors were cheered further by reports suggesting the US government was prepared to see more International Monetary Fund money used to help indebted eurozone countries.

The positive sentiment lifted banking stocks, with part-nationalised banks Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland up 1.1p at 65.1p and 0.6p at 40.4p respectively.

In corporate news, Thomson Holidays owner TUI Travel advanced more than 6% to the top of the risers board after its full-year results revealed an 11% increase in full-year operating profits. The travel firm made an underlying operating profit of £447 million in the year to September 30, up from £401 million the previous year. Shares were up 13.5p at 227.9p.

B&Q owner Kingfisher saw shares lift 8.4p to 246.2p after it said growth in international sales had offset a decline in the UK.

Rolls-Royce recovered from losses earlier in the session, after Australian airline Qantas said it had launched preliminary legal action against the company, after the recent failure of its Trent-900 engine, which was powering a Qantas A380 superjumbo. The airline said it had filed a statement of claim in a federal court that will allow it to launch legal action against Rolls-Royce if required. Shares were up 1p at 619.5p.

Outside the top flight, JJB Sports plummeted 22% or 1.3p to 4.5p after it revealed it expected to breach certain financial covenants on a £25 million Bank of Scotland loan after a deterioration in trading.

Meanwhile, results from pub company Marston’s cheered investors after the Pitcher & Piano firm reported a 4.6% rise in profits to £73.5 million as it reaped the benefit of its plan to focus on “food, families, females and forty/fifty-somethings”. Shares were up more than 5% or 5.9p at 106.5p.

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