FTSE 100 ticks higher as boost for Vodafone helps counter commodity drag

BRITAIN’S top share index posted a fractional gain yesterday after a volatile session as strength in market heavyweight Vodafone countered weaker commodity stocks hit by below par US data that revived concerns over demand for metals.

The UK blue chip index closed up 0.54 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 5,891.95, surrendering a 0.3 per cent gain in the closing auction. The index fell 1.2 per cent on Tuesday.

Miners fell the most following weaker than expected US housing data that raised concerns about recovery in the world’s biggest economy.

US blue chips were down 0.1 per cent by London’s close.

Precious metal miners saw good support in London, with Fresnillo ahead three per cent and Randgold Resources up 3.2 per cent.

Goldman Sachs upgraded mobile operator Vodafone to its “conviction buy” list, lifting the market heavyweight 0.3 per cent.

Banks were higher as a sector after a volatile performance, but only buoyed by gains in global heavyweight HSBC, up 0.4 per cent, with domestic lenders weaker. Part state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group shed 0.9 per cent and 0.4 per cent respectively as the sector missed out on the benefits of a cut in British corporation tax in the UK 2012 Budget, with an increase in the bank levy designed to counter this boost for other businesses.

Housebuilders received a slight boost from the Budget, traders said, with the increase in UK growth forecasts for 2012 and a fairly upbeat economic assessment from Osborne giving the hard-pressed sector some relief.

Barratt Developments was a top FTSE 250 gainer, up 4.4 per cent, with Bovis Homes ahead 3.2 per cent.