FTSE up after late start to trading

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The FTSE 100 Index is 54.4 points higher at 5974.4

A major technical glitch halted trading for more than four hours on Friday and left investors in limbo during a brighter session for world markets.

Once the outage involving systems at the London Stock Exchange was resolved the FTSE 100 Index stood 54.4 points higher at 5974.4.

Traders in London were earlier left on the sidelines as calmer oil prices prompted European counterparts to go in search of cheaper-looking stocks, leaving the CAC 40 in Paris up 1.3% and Germany’s Dax ahead 0.5%.

Speculation that the crisis in Libya may have cut supplies by less than previously estimated meant the price of Brent crude settled at around 111 US dollars, having spiked at near to 120 dollars on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia, Opec’s biggest producer, also indicated that it was prepared to increase supplies in the face of the Libya turmoil.

The International Energy Agency added that it could make up for any lost shipments from Libya by tapping into large surpluses held by member countries, which include the US, the UK, France and Germany.

Traders in London were also unable to react to the latest GDP figures, which showed the UK economy contracted 0.6% in the fourth quarter of 2010 rather than the 0.5% first thought, and full-year results from Lloyds Banking Group.

Lloyds, which is 41% owned by the taxpayer, reported pre-tax profits of £2.2 billion – a marked improvement on the £6.3 billion loss in 2009 – but analysts were spooked by comments that the slower UK economy and higher funding costs will prevent growth in net interest margins this year.

The bank’s bad debt losses narrowed in 2010 to £13 billion, from £23 billion the previous year, but it saw an increase in international impairment charges driven by the impact of the Irish debt crisis. Shares were 4% lower, a drop of 2.6p to 63.2p.

The biggest rise in the FTSE 100 Index came from BSkyB after the Financial Times said News Corp was close to an agreement with regulators about addressing competition concerns on its bid for the part of Sky it does not already own. BSkyB shares were 3% or 26.75p higher at 782.25p.

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