FTSE closes higher after Euro chiefs reassure on debt crisis

BRITAIN’S leading shares closed higher yesterday after Europe’s top bureaucrat said plans for a common euro bond, seen by many as a key tool to help end the regional debt crisis, would be presented shortly.

A common bond would give the weaker peripheral countries access to cheaper funds, backed by core Europe, although regional paymaster Germany has consistently opposed such as move.

The comments from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso clipped gilt futures, in a further sign of investors’ willingness to take on more risk, although market conviction remained low, Yusuf Heusen, sales trader at IG Index said.

“The market remains sentiment driven,” but was unlikely to break out of current rangebound trade until firm details around a bond were released, he said. “It’s bouncing around technical levels – having tried several times to get through 5,270.”

By the close, the FTSE 100 was up one per cent, or 52.77 points, at 5,227.02, adding to the previous session’s 0.9 per cent gain, although it remains down 3.1 per cent in September.

Underscoring the political disunity at the heart of the crisis, Austrian approval of changes to the region’s bailout fund faced a setback after a parliamentary committee failed to clear the measure for a quick vote.

The news prompted a short-lived index pullback and came ahead of a conference call between German, French and Greek leaders as Athens tries to implement austerity cuts and secure fresh bailout funds.

Weak US retail sales data added to the pullback.

The lack of clarity was evident in the derivatives markets, Atif Latif, director of trading at Guardian Stockbrokers said, citing buying of puts versus calls across both October and November contracts, “possibly taking advantage of the call skew”.

The trading pattern also seemed “to indicate that investors are unsure about a directional play but are now trading volatility,” he said.

Integrated oils led the charge thanks mostly to BP which ended up 3.5 per cent after a key US government report into the Macondo oil spill split the blame between the firm, fellow partners in the field and contractors.

Leading blue-chip gainers in volume, nearly four times its 90-day daily average, was high street fashion retailer Next, up 6.3 per cent after its first-half profits beat forecasts.

The firm said any further erosion of Eurozone sovereign finances was the biggest unknown risk for profits going forward, although it was more sanguine on the outlook for the UK consumer.

Peers elsewhere in the sector were boosted by Next’s results, with Marks and Spencer up 2.5 percent, although macroeconomic data did little to help, as the number of UK unemployed rose at its fastest pace for two years.

With data weakening across the developed world, fears of a return to recession are rising and the chances of a fresh round of quantitative easing from the Bank of England are now 40 per cent, a Reuters poll showed yesterday.