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Rallying miners offset weaker finance firms to help the FTSE 100 edge up

BRITAIN’S top share index closed 0.6 per cent higher yesterday, as gains in rebounding miners and strength in defensive issues more than offset weaker financials, which were weighed by ongoing eurozone debt issues.

The FTSE 100 rose 31.41 points at 5,092.33 in choppy trade. The index fell 2.5 per cent last week, its fourth straight weekly decline and is down 6 per cent in 2010.

Strength in miners was underpinned by bullish results from Randgold
Resources, the top FTSE 100 riser, up 6.4 per cent after the gold miner
saw its full-year profit jump 79 per cent.

Xstrata added 3.6 per cent after the mining group reinstated its dividend, after it met expectations by posting a 41 per cent fall in 2009 profit.
The sector was also rebounding from last week’s sharp falls when it fell over 8 per cent.

“The volatility index is up almost 20 per cent in the United States over the last two weeks, moves which have been echoed over here and that tells you all you need to know about investor sentiment at the moment,” said Richard Hunter Head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown. Oil firms also rebounded from recent falls with Royal Dutch Shell and BP up 1.2 and 0.5 per cent respectively.

But BG Group, which reported downbeat results on Friday, fell 1.6 per cent after its rating was cut to “equal-weight” by Barclays Capital following results on Friday.

Defensive plays were firmly on the front foot as appetite for risk receded, with pharmaceuticals and tobacco stocks strong performers.

AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Shire added 0.2-1.8 per cent, while
Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco gained 1.7 and 2.3 per cent respectively.

Among individual blue chip risers, International Power added 2.1 per cent after a report in the Independent on Sunday said France’s GDF Suez is mulling a revised offer for the British power generator, including a cash element.

ICAP recovered 3.3 per cent after Friday’s plunge which was sparked by a profit warning, helped by a Credit Suisse upgrade to “outperform”, with the broker calling the falls “overdone”. Brewing giant SABMiller rose three per cent with fourth-quarter results due out today.