Miners help FTSE beat big freeze

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The FTSE 100 rose 33.6 points to 5905.3 ay midday

The FTSE 100 Index returned above the 5900 barrier as the London market overcame the impact of the UK’s big freeze on travel and retail stocks.

A decent session for mining and utility companies and thin pre-Christmas volumes meant the FTSE 100 Index rallied 33.6 points to 5905.3, a gain of 0.5% and broadly similar to the two-and-a-half year high seen earlier this month.

The rally came despite further tensions on the Korean peninsula and the weather-related impact on certain blue-chip stocks.

With passengers stranded at airports across the country, British Airways was the leading faller for a spell before settling 3p lower at 267.2p.

The snow and ice also meant many shoppers were unable to reach the high street on what is normally one of the busiest weekends of the year for UK retailers.

Next led the FTSE 100 Index fallers with a drop of 27p to 1958p, down 1%, while Marks & Spencer slipped 4.3p to 371.1p and Tesco dropped 0.6p to 432.8p. Other notable fallers included Whitbread – the owner of coffee shop chain Costa and Beefeater restaurants – which declined 5p to 1800p.

Outside the top flight, Dixons Retail Group dropped 1.1p to 23.2p and HMV Group, owner of book shop Waterstone’s, fell 2.5p to 29p. JD Sports Fashion weathered the storm as shares in the highly-rated retailer rose 31p to 891p.

The banking sector endured a mixed session in the wake of Friday’s warning from Lloyds Banking Group that it would take additional bad debt charges on its £26 billion Irish loan book. Lloyds dropped another 0.2p to 66.3p but Barclays recovered from a weak start to stand 1.85p higher at 261.6p while Royal Bank of Scotland, which also has extensive exposure to Ireland, gained 0.8p to 38.6p as it recouped losses seen before the weekend.

Investors were also focused on the gambling sector after Ladbrokes confirmed it was in talks over a possible deal to buy online firm 888 Holdings. The takeover interest, which is reportedly priced at around £240 million, would allow Ladbrokes to strengthen its online offer, which industry insiders say has lagged behind those of its rivals.

Shares in 888 jumped 19% or 9.25p to 58.25p and Sportingbet rose 0.95p to 59.9p on hopes of further consolidation in the sector but Ladbrokes investors were non-plussed by the potential deal as shares slipped 0.1p to 127.4p.

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