Oil and minerals bolster FTSE index despite banking and drugmaker lows

BRITAIN’S top share index hit an 18-month closing high yesterday, led by oil stocks and miners, while drugmakers fell with AstraZeneca pressured after its cancer drug failed in trials.

The FTSE 100 ended up 6.96 points, or 0.1 per cent, at 5,606.72, its highest close since 2 September 2008. The index gained 4.6 per cent last week, its strongest week since last July.

Energy stocks added the most points to the index after oil hit an eight-week high above $82 a barrel earlier.

BG Group and BP rose 0.2 and 0.7 per cent respectively. Royal Dutch Shell put on 0.6 per cent. It bid more than $3bn jointly with PetroChina for Australia’s Arrow Energy.

Miners were also in favour. Rio Tinto, Fresnillo and Lonmin climbed 0.2 to 0.5 per cent.

BHP Billiton gained 1.2 per cent. Life insurers were good performers, with Resolution the top FTSE 100 riser, up five per cent and Legal & General adding 2.7 per cent.

Drugmakers were lower. AstraZeneca was among the top blue-chip fallers, off 1.4 per cent. GlaxoSmithKline and Shire dropped 0.2 and 0.3 per cent respectively.

Banks were also out of favour. HSBC, whose shares have see-sawed since its results, shed 0.7 per cent, while Lloyds Banking Group and Royal Bank of Scotland dropped 0.7 and 1.3 per cent.

Supermarket chain WM Morrison gained 0.3 per cent ahead of its results on Thursday. Peers J Sainsbury and Tesco were up 0.5 and 0.7 per cent.

Oil and gas services company Petrofac rose 4.1 per cent after it posted full-year net profit ahead of forecasts.

Forth Ports soared 26 per cent and is the UK’s only listed Ports company.