Miners, defensive rally helps FTSE up 0.6 percent

By David Brett

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s top share index closed 0.6 percent higher on Monday, 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 percent last week, its fourth straight weekly decline and is down 6 percent in 2010.

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

Xstrata added 3.6 percent after the mining group reinstated its dividend, after it met expectations by posting a 41 percent fall in 2009 profit.

The sector was also rebounding from last week’s sharp falls when it fell over 8 percent.

“The volatility index is up almost 20 percent 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 percent respectively.

But BG Group, which reported downbeat results on Friday, fell 1.6 percent 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 percent, while Imperial Tobacco and British American Tobacco gained 1.7 and 2.3 percent respectively.

Among individual blue chip risers, International Power added 2.1 percent 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 percent 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 3 percent with fourth-quarter results due on Tuesday.

However, property company British Land, which is scheduled to report Q3 results on Tuesday, fell 1.7 percent.

FINANCIALS FADE

Financial stocks took most points off the FTSE 100 as negative sentiment over euro zone debt problems weighed.

Barclays, Standard Chartered, Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group fell 0.3-2.3 percent.

Life insurers Legal & General, Aviva and Prudential fell 2.4-3.5 percent.

Broker UBS raised its cash level in its global model portfolio and cut equities to neutral from a small overweight, saying risk premiums would remain high for some time on concerns over Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Over the weekend European finance ministers tried to assure their counterparts in the G7 that the eurozone’s debt crisis is under control. They said they would make sure that Greece sticks with its budget cutting plans.

“The longer the debt fears go on the more it will add to market nervousness,” Hargreaves’s Hunter said.

Among other blue chip fallers, chip designer ARM Holdings eased 1.5 percent on its FTSE 100 debut, having replaced Cadbury at the close on Friday.

Wednesday’s Bank of England Inflation Report will be the main focus for economic data this week.

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Miners, defensive rally helps FTSE up 0.6 percent