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FTSE tiptoes higher

Source: Reuters - Thu 2th Jul 2009

Strength in Vodafone and defensive tobacco stocks pushed the top share index into positive ground by close on Thursday, but gains were muted and offset by sliding commodity stocks.

The FTSE 100 .FTSE index closed 2.40 points lower at 4,280.86, having closed down 50.11 points, or 1.2 percent the previous session.

Heavyweight mobile phone operator Vodafone was the biggest positive impact on the index, gaining 2.4 percent, equivalent to a 6 points on the index as investors looked to buy into stocks perceived as safe havens.

"People are rotating in and out of different sectors and into stocks like Vodafone but the market is a bit lifeless and the market is struggling for direction" said Tim Rees, fund manager at Insight Investment.

The index is down 3.5 percent this year but has gained 23.7 percent since its trough in March, although it has retreated by 3.6 percent so far this week.

"There's a realisation that the nature of the underlying problems mean that any recovery will be subdued and drawn out" Rees said.

Defensive stocks and banks were also in demand with British American Tobacco up 1.8 percent. Lloyds Banking Group gained 3.3 percent, reflecting index re-weighting factors, while Royal Bank of Scotland gained 2.7 percent.


Retail sales fell unexpectedly in May as shoppers tightened their belts after splashing out over the Easter holidays, while government borrowing hit a record high, official data showed on Thursday.

The Office for National Statistics said retail sales volumes fell 0.6 percent on the month, against a forecast of a 0.4 percent gain. That left them 1.6 percent lower than in the same month a year ago.

Retailers were mostly weaker, with Home Retail Group , Next and Kingfisher shedding between 0.4 and 2.3 percent. But Marks & Spencer bucked the trend, adding 1.1 percent.

Adding to the negative tone for the outlook on the economy, British factory orders fell slightly more than expected in June as export orders had their biggest drop in more than a decade, the Confederation of British Industry said.

Weak energy shares were the biggest drag amongst the blue chips as oil prices held around $71 per barrel, with BP Royal Dutch Shell and BG Group losing 0.5 to 1.2 percent.

Miners saw some early gains reversed as metal prices remained weak amid demand concerns.

Rio Tinto was the worst off, down 4.9 percent reflecting its recent rights issues, while Lonmin , Antofagasta and Kazakhmys KA.L lost 0.6 to 1.3 percent.

Xstrata , however, held firm, up 1.7 percent supported by two broker upgrades. Morgan Stanley raised its rating for the miner to "overweight" from "equal-weight" while Citigroup upped its stance to "buy" from "hold."

BAE Systems saw good support, up 2.5 percent after the Daily Mail said that Saudi Arabia was considering placing an order for a further 72 Typhoon jets worth about 5 billion pounds. 

Aircraft engine producer Rolls-Royce benefited as well, adding 1.7 percent.

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