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FTSE driven higher by banks on Barclays results

Source: Reuters - Tue 16th Feb 2010

Britain's top share index rose on Tuesday, led by banks after Barclays posted 2009 results that beat forecasts, and with commodity stocks also in demand on firmer oil and metals prices.By 0912 GMT, the FTSE 100 was 59.10 points, or 1.2 percent, firmer at 5,226.57, after closing 0.5 percent higher on Monday.

Barclays was the standout blue-chip riser, up 5.8 percent, after saying it had started the year well when beating expectations with 2009 profit of over 11.6 billion pounds ($18.2 billion), on the back of a strong performance at its investment banking unit.

"These are excellent results, and really they steer themarket in the right direction for the rest of the day" said Howard Wheeldon, strategist at BGC Partners.

Solid gains were seen from other British banks, with HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Standard Chartered rising 1.5-3.7 percent. 

Royal Bank of Scotland rose 3.2 percent. JP MorganChase & Co is close to a deal to buy the non-U.S. assets of commodities joint venture RBS Sempra - 51 percent owned by RBS - for about $1.7 billion, Bloomberg reported.

Greek debt issues still lurked in the background, however.

Euro zone states urged Greece on Monday to announce more deficit-control steps by mid-March if needed, but said nothing new on last week's pledge to defend the country if debt market pressures spin out of control.


Mining stocks were in favour, boosted by higher metals prices, with Eurasian Natural Resources, Antofagasta and Xstrata among the best off, up 2.8-3.2 percent.

Anglo American climbed 3.2 percent after selling its Tarmac construction businesses in France, Germany, Poland andthe Czech republic to Eurovia, a unit of France's Vinci.

Rio Tinto added 2.5 percent, also helped by a target price hike from ING, while BHP Billiton put on 2.3 percent, aided by an upgrade to 'buy' from the same broker.

A firmer oil price CLc1 gave energy stocks a lift. Royal Dutch Shell, BP and BG Group climbed 0.6-0.9 percent. Broker Bernstein also weighed in with an upgrade to 'outperform' for Royal Dutch Shell. 

Positive broker sentiment also aided drinks firm Diageo, up 0.5 percent after a price target hike to 1,070 pence from 985 pence from ING.

Imperial Tobacco shed 1.1 percent, topping the FTSE 100 fallers list, knocked by a downgrade in rating to 'neutral'from 'buy' by Nomura.

InterContinental Hotels was also under pressure, shedding 0.9 percent after the world's biggest hotelier said trading will stay tough until business travellers return ingreater numbers, as 2009 profit fell 34 percent but still beat forecasts.

British inflation numbers, due at 0930 GMT, will be the day's main economic focus, with economists predicting a 0.1 percent fall in January CPI, after a 0.6 percent rise in December, with the annualised number rising to 3.5 percent from 2.9 percent in December.

Investors also have the February Empire State index and the latest National Association of Home Builders report in the afternoon to give some clues to the health of the U.S. economy.

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