Oils, banks, miners haul Britain’s FTSE higher

By Jon Hopkins

LONDON (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s leading shares were stronger at midday on Wednesday, boosted by gains in heavyweight oils, banks and miners, with sentiment helped by M&A moves and

hopes for early gains on Wall Street.

At 1037 GMT, the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) index was up 82.16 points, or 1.6 percent, at 5,221.62, looking to snap a five-session losing streak after closing down 0.2 percent on Tuesday.

Integrated oils were the top blue chip performers, led by BP (BP.L: ), up 3.3 percent after the company said late on Tuesday U.S. firm Apache Corp (APA.N: ) had agreed to buy $7 billion in assets, a large part of its planned sale of $10 billion in assets to help pay for the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

Other oil majors were supported by a firmer crude price, with Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: ) and BG Group (BG.L: ) up 0.7 and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Miners got a lift from firmer metal prices, with copper futures hitting three-week highs on Chinese bargain-hunting. Kazakhmys (KAZ.L: ), Antofagasta (ANTO.L: ), and Xstrata (XTA.L: ) added 4.1 to 5.3 percent.

BHP Billiton (BLT.L: ) gained 2.5 percent as it reported a 16 percent jump in quarterly iron ore output but voiced caution on the short-term outlook for commodities markets.

Banks saw good demand, led by Barclays (BARC.L: ), up 2.2 percent as the sector awaited the outcome of European stress tests, and further results from their U.S. peers.

Banks Morgan Stanley (MS.N: ) (Read more about the money market today. ) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N: ), as well as soft drinks maker Coca-Cola Co (KO.N: ), are among the U.S. firms reporting earnings before the Wall Street open on Wednesday, while Google (GOOG.O: ) is due to announce after the close.

Much stronger than expected results from U.S. tech giant Apple (AAPL.N: ), released after the market closed on Tuesday, was expected to buoy U.S. stocks (Read more about the stock market today. ) in early trade.

“Investors will be keeping a keen eye on the U.S. trading session this afternoon, not only to see how well the tech sector performs but also how well the market receives Ben Bernanke’s speech,” said Nick Serff, market analyst at City Index.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will deliver his semi-annual testimony before Congress on Wednesday and Thursday,

“Investors will be keen to listen to what he has to say after a weak recent bout of economic data could potentially open the door for a more accommodative stance from the Fed,” Serff said.

M&A BOOST

SSL was the top FTSE 250 (.FTMC: ) gainer, leaping 33 percent higher as the condoms-to-footcare firm agreed a 2.5 billion pounds takeover by household and personal-care products firm Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L: ), whose shares gained 2.4 percent.

Merger and acquisition possibilities were a spur to gains by tour operator TUI Travel (TT.L: ), up 2.7 percent after the Daily Telegraph’s market report suggested a possible mop-up bid by 54 percent shareholder TUI AG of Germany, citing a recent Morgan Stanley note.

And revived talk of a possible takeover move saw hedge fund manager Man Group (EMG.L: ) add 3.7 percent.

There were just a handful of blue chip fallers, with Smith & Nephew (SN.L: ) the worst off, down 4.3 percent as investors weighed up disappointing results from its U.S. orthopaedics peer Stryker (SYK.N: ).

Talk Citigroup had placed 8 million shares in Smith & Nephew at 559 pence each was also a drag on the stocks.

Ex-dividend factors accounted for a lower Imperial Tobacco (IMT.L: ), which together with ICAP (IAP.L: ) took 1.27 points off the UK blue chip index.

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted 7-1 to keep interest rates at 0.5 percent this month, and discussed both easing and tightening policy, minutes of their July 7-8 policy meeting showed on Wednesday.

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(Editing by Karen Foster)

Oils, banks, miners haul Britain’s FTSE higher