Admiral leads FTSE 100 up

As snow engulfed the City in white this morning, the leading share index was marginally up, although trading is expected to be quiet.

Defensive shares were up on the FTSE 100 in early deals, as insurer Admiral lead gains, adding 5.3 per cent on the back of an upgrade from Goldman Sachs.

Utility firms SSE, National Grid and Severn Trent were also early risers, gaining 1.68 per cent, 1.3 per cent and 1.27 per cent respectively.

Pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline was up 1.49 per cent.

On the wider index, oil and gas company Afren added 2.3 per cent as it said in a trading statement that 2012 full year production hit record levels.

At the other end of the spectrum, education company Pearson lost 3.55 per cent as it warned of tough market conditions for its businesses. It said this morning that operating profit is expected to come in at around £935m for 2012.

Meggitt, which manufactures aircraft components, fell 2.5 per cent on continued negative news flow from Boeing 787s. Its unit Securaplane, which makes a charger for batteries used in the jets, said it would support an investigation into battery issues that has grounded the Dreamliners.

Luxury retailer Burberry and drinks maker Diageo also sank 2.24 per cent and 1.41 per cent in early deals.

Banking shares were broadly flat in early trades. HSBC fell 0.03 per cent, RBS was up 0.86 per cent, Barclays was down 0.03 per cent and Lloyds Banking Group was flat.

In Asia, the Nikkei closed 1.52 per cent down, while in the US the Dow Jones closed up 0.39 per cent.