Britain’s top equity index yesterday hit a record high as a rally in mining companies helped the three-decade-old blue chip index to surpass its previous high, set in late 1999.
Reports that Greece had secured a lifeline from its creditors and increasing belief that the UK’s economic recovery was gaining momentum also helped the index rise.
The benchmark FTSE 100 reached 6,958.89 points, and closed 0.5 per cent or 37.47 points higher at 6,949.63, beating its record closing level of 6,930.2 on 30 December 1999.
“Finally the FTSE 100 surpassed the massive resistance level of 6,950.60. It will provide a psychological boost to the market and propel the index to trade beyond the 7,000 mark,” said Jawaid Afsar, a trader at Securequity. “These lofty levels will entice a lot of investors to book profits, but the overall sentiment seems very bullish.”
BHP Billiton rose more than six per cent even after posting a 31 per cent drop in underlying half-year profit to $5.35bn (£3.46bn).
The figure beat forecasts, and the mining giant said it expected more than $4bn of productivity gains by the end of 2017.
Anglo American rose 3.6 per cent to £12.41, while Glencore added three per cent to 295.6p.
Mondi was also among the best-performing blue chip stocks, closing up 2.6 per cent. The South Africa-based paper and packaging company reported higher profits for 2014, driven largely by cost-cutting and other measures aimed at boosting margins.
Vodafone exerted the most downward pressure, falling 2.7 per cent to 226.4p, after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock to “underperform” from “neutral”.
Housebuilder Persimmon fell 3.5 per cent despite it reporting a 44 per cent rise in full-year profit to £475m.
Taylor Wimpey fell 2.62 per cent to 141.50p while Bovis Homes was down 1.52 per cent to 936.50p.
Other big fallers included Meggitt, down 5.95 per cent at 537p, and GKN down 3.21 per cent at 373.60p.
In the FTSE 250, shares in Just Retirement Group jumped 16 per cent after the annuity provider’s latest results suggested it was coping with the planned changes to the pensions market, which will mean annuity purchases are no longer compulsory.
It reported annuity sales of £661.2m, down four per cent from a year earlier, with underlying pre-tax profit dropping 10 per cent to £42.6m.
The figures were better than expected, and the company added it would launch new products in April when the pension reforms come into effect.
Sentiment was also helped by Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen telling Congress that the central bank was unlikely to hike interest rates for at least the next two meetings because US wage growth remains sluggish.
The news provided traders with welcome certainty and meant the pound was slightly lower against the US dollar at $1.54 and flat versus the euro at 1.36.