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FTSE closes at three week high

Source: Reuters - Fri 13th Nov 2009

The FTSE 100 hit its highest close in three weeks on Thursday as British Airways soared with investors cheered as a merger with Iberia looked imminent, while gains were also powered by strength in banks.

But the rise was limited by falls in commodity prices hitting miners and energy stocks, which together constitute a third of the index.

The index closed up 9.75 points or 0.2 percent at 5,276.50, it's highest close since Oct 19, and touched a peak since September 2008 after ending 0.7 percent higher on Wednesday.

British Airways rose 7.5 percent after it and Iberia confirmed their boards were holding separate board meetings to consider a merger to create the world's third largest airline by revenue.

"There's rumbling M&A activity... the BA deal looks close to fruition and results are looking fairly good with BT's cashflow higher than expected" said Grahame Exton, fund manager at Tilney Investment Management in Liverpool.

BT Group gained 3.7 percent after it increased its outlook for the full year after stringent cost cuts helped the former telecoms monopoly deliver strong core earnings. Free cashflow targets were lifted to at least 1.6 billion pounds.

Other telecoms stocks were also stronger, buoyed by improved sentiment on the sector after the BT Group results. Heavyweight Vodafone added 1.3 percent and Cable & Wireless rose 1.4 percent.

The index is up 19 percent this year and has soared 52.5 percent since touching a six-year trough in March. 

"Coming up to year end, a lot of people don't want to be seen holding too much cash and a lot of it is finding its way into the equity market" Exton at Tilney said.

Inmarsat added 6.7 percent, benefiting as the satellite communications firm entered the MSCI world index meaning that some index tracking funds automatically take positions in the stock.

Pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline gained 1 percent as Barclays Capital initiated coverage with an "equal weight" rating, while UBS hiked its target price for the drugmaker.


Banks were generally higher with investors taking positions in relatively risk sensitive stocks. Standard Chartered, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays added 0.3-2 percent.

But state-supported Royal Bank of Scotland fell 3 percent extending losses for the third consecutive day.

Energy stocks dipped as the crude oil price fell to around $77 per barrel, having been up above $80 on Wednesday.

BG Group, BP and Royal Dutch Shell dropped 0.8 to 1 percent.

Similarly miners were dragged lower by softer metal prices with Fresnillo, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto dropping 0.6 to 1.7 percent. 

Eurasian Natural Resources fell 1.7 percent after releasing third-quarter output numbers.

Among individual movers, 3i Group shed 4.1 percent in the wake of its first-half results.

The British private equity firm said asset values increased just 2 percent in the first half of its financial year as the real economy failed to keep up with rebounding stock markets.

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