BP and energy peers propel the FTSE while banks drag

EENERGY stocks led by BP pushed Britain’s top shares higher yesterday, outpacing falls in banks that were weighed down by European recovery concerns.

The FTSE 100 closed up 21.92 points, or 0.4 per cent, at 5,429.74, after breaking a seven-session winning streak to close down 0.6 per cent on Tuesday at 5,407.82.

Meanwhile the FTSE 250 closed up 35.44 points, or 0.35 per cent, to 10,216.71, and the FTSE All-Share gained 11 points, or 0.4 per cent, to close at 2,801.76.

“The FTSE’s pushing up again to the levels it saw four months ago and it’s a little bit baffling because if you look at the US and European markets they are nowhere near four-month highs,” said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index.

Jones said the FTSE’s heavy weighting towards commodity-linked stocks has helped with “a bit of exaggeration because of the relatively low volumes but London seems to be particularly resilient at the moment”.

BP rose 1.3 per cent after a company report shifted much of the blame for the Gulf of Mexico rig blast that led to the United States’ worst-ever oil spill on to its contractors Transocean and Halliburton.

Energy and mining stocks helped power the index higher, rallying with commodity prices, although volumes on the FTSE were just 75 per cent of its 90-day average.

Rio Tinto added 0.7 per cent as a newspaper reported the Anglo-Australian miner is in Russia seeking a possible stake in potash producer Uralkali as competition for the crop nutrient heats up.

Gains on Wall Street also underpinned the UK rally with investors awaiting the release of the US central bank’s Beige Book ?– anecdotal reports gathered from its 12 regional banks that could offer insight into US economic conditions, due after the London markets closed.

Recent economic data from the world’s biggest economy has assuaged fears of a double-dip recession.

British real estate companies were in demand after Barclays Capital issued a positive sector outlook and mortgage lender Halifax posted a surprise uptick in August house prices.

Hammerson rose 2.2 per cent, while British Land and Land Securities added 1.9 and 1.1 per cent respectively.

ARM Holdings climbed 5.8 per cent to a near eight-year high after RBS repeated its “buy” rating, saying Samsung had selected ARM’s technology for its new mobile phone chip over Imagination Technology’s, and with traders pointing to re-hashed bid rumours surrounding ARM.

Imagination Technology shares were down 11 per cent.

Banks were hampered as worries over Europe’s recovery persisted. Greece’s austerity-hit economy shrank at a faster pace than thought in the second quarter.

Ireland extended guarantees for short-term bank liabilities amid fears over the escalating cost of bailing out nationalised lender Anglo Irish Bank.

Talks on the way banks around the world gird themselves for shocks can be wrapped up at the weekend, the head of Germany’s Bundesbank Axel Weber said. Barclays fell 1.9 per cent, also hurt by a downgrade from Bernstein to “market-perform” from “outperform”.