Miners, insurers help FTSE higher; banks weak

* FTSE 100 up 0.4 percent after four-session losing streak

* Miners rally helped by steadier metal prices

* Banks stay weak as euro zone debt concerns weigh

By Jon Hopkins

LONDON, May 6 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s leading share index held
firm at midday on Thursday, having recovered from an opening
drop, with a rally by miners and insurers offsetting further
falls by banks on fears that the Greek debt crisis could spread.

By 1047 GMT, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) index was up 20.06 points,
or 0.4 percent at 5,361.99, having rallied from an opening fall
to a session low of 5,267.50. That was just above a support
level of 5,259 highlighted by a Charles Stanley technical
analyst on Wednesday.

The blue-chip index dropped 69.18 points, or 1.3 percent on
Wednesday, taking the four-session decline to almost 5 percent.

“Considering the dramatic falls the FTSE 100 has suffered,
we have been due a bit of a relief rally but in truth there is
not much in today’s moves so far that suggest that the woes we
have seen over the last week are over for now,” said Joshua
Raymond, market strategist at City Index.

Miners provided the main prop for the blue-chips, rallying
following recent sharp falls after Australia imposed a tax on
the sector, helped by steadier metal prices. The mining sector
(.FTNMX1770: ) has lost over 9 percent in the past week.

Xstrata (XTA.L: ), Kazakhmys (KAZ.L: ), Rio Tinto (RIO.L: ), BHP
Billiton (BLT.L: ), Vedanta Resources (VED.L: ), Anglo American
(AAL.L: ) and Fresnillo (FRES.L: ) gained 0.7 to 4.2 percent.

Insurers also saw good demand. RSA Insurance (RSA.L: ) took on
3.1 percent after it said in a trading update that net written
premiums rose 5 percent in the first quarter and confirmed key
growth and profitability targets for 2010. [ID:nLDE6441S0]

Peer Prudential (PRU.L: ) rallied 3.7 percent after falls on
Wednesday following a delay to the rights issue linked to the
insurer’s purchase of AIG’s (AIG.N: ) Asian operations.

Among other financials, fund manager Schroders (SDR.L: ) was
the top FTSE 100 riser, up 5.1 percent as it posted a sharp rise
in first-quarter pretax profit. [ID:nLDE6441C8]

Well-received results also supported beverage can maker
Rexam (REX.L: ), up 3.3 percent. [ID:nLDE6450BC]

Supermarkets group WM Morrison (MRW.L: ) lost 1.6 percent as
it posted a sharp drop in underlying quarterly sales growth.
[ID:nLDE6450J1]

Fellow food retailers J Sainsbury (SBRY.L: ) and Tesco
(TSCO.L: ) shed 0.4 and 0.3 percent, respectively.

BANKS A DRAG

Banks were the main drag on sentiment as euro zone debt
crisis concerns continued to take a toll. Royal Bank of Scotland
(RBS.L: ), Barclays (BARC.L: ), HSBC (HSBA.L: ), and Standard
Chartered (STAN.L: ) lost 0.8 to 1.6 percent.

But Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: ) advanced 0.2 percent.

Integrated oils were weaker as crude (CLc1: ) held around $80
a barrel, with Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: ) and BG Group (BG.L: )
falling 1.1 and 0.4 percent, respectively

But peer BP (BP.L: ) gained 1.2 percent, extending Wednesday’s
recovery following sharp recent falls on fears over the costs of
an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil explorer Cairn Energy (CNE.L: ) gained 4.1 percent, helped
by an Exane BNP Paribas upgrade to “outperform”.

Voting was underway in the British general election, with
overnight opinion polls showing the Conservative lead firming,
leaving it a close call as to whether they will win an overall
parliamentary majority. [ID:nMNS76t9nb]

The Bank of England has moved its normal monthly rate
announcement to Monday to avoid clashing with the election.

The European Central Bank holds its monthly meeting later on
Thursday and, while it is expected to keep rates unchanged at 1
percent, it is likely to try to assure markets that it can
prevent the Greek debt crisis from spreading.

Stock Today

(Editing by Erica Billingham)

Miners, insurers help FTSE higher; banks weak