London Report: FTSE ends on a high on strong economic data

Britain’s top share index hit a one-week high yesterday, with upbeat economic data from the US and China improving investor sentiment and boost­­­ing cyclical sectors such as banks and miners and carmakers.

The FTSE 100 index closed 0.2 per cent firmer at 6,816.37 points, after climbing to a high of 6,829.49, the highest level since late June. The index is up more than five per cent so far this year.

The FTSE 250 was up 56.24 points, or 0.36 per cent, to 15,897.1.

Among the miners, which account for 10 per cent of the index, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton advanced 1.2 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.

Broader retail-sector stocks were in the catalogue of gainers. Marks & Spencer added 1.2 per cent to 432p, while Tesco saw a moderate 0.28 per cent rise to 284.95p.

Some strength was seen in housebuilders after figures from mortgage lender Nationwide showing British house prices rose at their fastest annual pace in more than nine years last month.

Blue-chip Barratt Developments rose 0.1 per cent, while among mid-caps, Bovis Homes and Taylor Wimpey advanced 0.9 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively.

The sector has been rattled in the past weeks by rising expectations of a Bank of England rate hike before the end of the year, but analysts and traders view any such weakness as a buying opportunity.

A number of companies saw their shares go ex-dividend. These included Royal Mail, down 2.5 per cent at 479.1p, Burberry, 1.3 per cent lower at 1,460p and Babcock International, 0.3 per cent lower at 1,160p.

In the FTSE 250, Ocado recovered 13.75 per cent to 403.8p after Tuesday’s falls in the wake of its latest trading update.

Mothercare added 8.4 per cent to 252p after it rejected a 300p cash and share offer from US group Destination Maternity.

But internet video search specialist Blinkx slumped 52 per cent to 31.5p after it issued a profit warning, blaming industry wide issues and also the lingering effects of a disparaging blog about the company in January.

Shares in Vimto maker Nichols lost their fizz, falling 3.8 per cent to 919.5p, after a court ruled it must pay £8m to settle a dispute with a Pakistani distributor over its right over the drink in that country.