FTSE closes above 6,000 as traders pick miners and banks

BANKS and miners pushed Britain’s top share index higher yesterday, lifted by further proof that the economic recovery in the United States is on track. The FTSE 100 index closed up 42.25 points, or 0.7 per cent, at 6000.07, extending Tuesday’s 1.6 per cent rise.

The index has recovered from a sharp dip at the beginning of the week as the focus has shifted from the political troubles in the Middle East to the health of the global economic recovery.

Yesterday’s strong reading on the labour market in the United States backed up strong manufacturing data on Tuesday from the world’s biggest economy, and gave a steer ahead of Friday’s January US jobs report.

The data shored up investor appetite for riskier assets such as mining stocks, which had been dented due to fears over the impact of the political unrest in Egypt.

ENRC added 3.8 per cent after the miner reported a rise in fourth-quarter ferroalloy production.

Miners Lonmin and Rio Tinto were also among the top risers yesterday, climbing 4.1 and 3.8 per cent respectively.

Banks saw good support on the back of improved investor sentiment, with Standard Chartered up 1.7 per cent.

There was promising news from the Europe, where Germany and France reached a consensus on steps to boost economic coordination within the Eurozone as part of a comprehensive anti-crisis package that will also see the scope of Europe’s bailout fund bolstered.

“Investors are looking for more proper answers to all the issues that are still there from the financial crisis,” said Lothar Mentel, chief investment officer at Octopus Investments.

“Once they have been answered, then those doom-mongers will have a less of an argument to cause these short-term stampedes,” he said, referring to recent volatility on the FTSE 100.

Chipmaker CSR rose 2.9 per cent after its rival Broadcom speculated that Qualcomm, another chipmaker, could buy the British company to bolster its Bluetooth and FM radio range.

Imperial Tobacco added 5.9 per cent after the cigarette maker surprised investors with a return to volume growth in the last quarter of 2010.

“We think this should put a stop to the recent rot in the share price and create a platform for a more balanced ticket of top line delivery in FY11,” Investec Securities said in a note.

Peer British American Tobacco added 1.4 per cent.

On the second tier, Pace, the world’s largest maker of set-top boxes, gained 10.6 per cent after traders highlighted a newspaper report saying the British firm has won a key contract with an Indian pay-television provider.

On the downside, defensives such as International Power, down 3.4 per cent, were among the top fallers yesterday.

National Grid shed 2.1 per cent as Investec kept its “sell” rating on the utility, saying Ofgem’s seminar on Tuesday only served to highlight the regulatory uncertainty facing the industry.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca and TUI Travel fell 2.8 and 1.8 per cent respectively after going ex-dividend.

GKN dropped 4.9 per cent after broker Credit Suisse suggested that their profit margins were at risk from rising commodity prices.