FTSE 100 gains on the back of Experian and financials

THE top share index closed higher yesterday, led up by Experian after robust first-half results, while strength was seen among banks which have been weighed down by concerns over Europe’s debt problems.

Experian rose 6.3 per cent after the credit information group hiked its interim dividend and said it would look at ways of returning cash to shareholders after a stronger-than-expected first half.

At the close the FTSE 100 was 10.66 points, or 0.2 per cent, higher at 5,692.56, after recording its biggest daily fall since 11 August on Tuesday.

“People are sitting on the fence. We are in a kind of limbo period while waiting to see how Ireland pans out,” Will Hedden, a trader at IG Index, said.

“Companies are moving for their own reasons. There has been a little bit of a rally in banking stocks which have been falling because of exposure to Ireland but it’s all on a bit of a knife edge,” he said.

Royal Bank of Scotland, which has fallen recently on fears over its exposure to Irish sovereign debt, rose 2.1 per cent as investors awaited the outcome of an EU/IMF mission to Dublin to explore solutions to the crisis.

Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline added 2.4 per cent, following backing from a US advisory panel for its lupus drug Benlysta, which is seen as a potential blockbuster.

An expert advisory committee of the Food and Drug Administration voted by 13 to 2 in favour of approving Benlysta for use in the US, while also recommending restrictions and tough scrutiny post-launch.

The US regulator is not required to follow the recommendation of its arthritis advisory committee, but analysts raised their assessments that it would make it to market, generating annual sales for GSK estimated potentially to reach £1bn by 2015.

With around 5m sufferers worldwide, lupus has proved difficult to conquer: doctors rely on symptomatic treatments, including anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, antimalarials and immunosuppressants, which have a range of side-effects.

Several attempts to introduce drugs to treat the disease, which primarily affects women of child-bearing age, have failed to pass trials.

Energy stocks ticked higher, recovering support after recent falls on the back of fears of interest rate hikes in China, the world’s largest commodities consumer.

In terms of UK macro data, unemployment benefit claimants fell unexpectedly by 3,700 last month and a wider measure, which includes those looking for work but not claiming benefits, also fell in the three months to September, official data showed yesterday.

Minutes from the Bank of England’s November meeting revealed policymakers split three ways for the second month running, with one member voting for more monetary stimulus, another advocating a rate hike and the others freezing policy.

The wireless telecommunications sector was dragged down by market heavyweight Vodafone, off 2.1 per cent after trading ex-dividend and as broker Evolution Securities cut its rating to “reduce” in the wake of recent results.

“Despite slightly better than expected results, we see some potentially large macroeconomic stumbling blocks and still too little evidence that Vodafone is sufficiently differentiated from peers to deserve a premium rating,” the Evolution Securities said.