FRIDAY MARKET CLOSE: FTSE edges closer to record high

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The top-flight index took a further step towards a record high as investors were cheered by a strong session in Japan and the long-awaited completion of Vodafone’s mega deal to sell its stake in a US joint venture.

Despite disappointing economic data coming out of the US, the FTSE 100 ended the session up 25.06 points at 6,838.06 – bringing the intra-day high of 6950.6 reached in December 1999 firmly into view.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “This week has seen the FTSE 100 outperform the rest of Europe quite strongly as it looks to push back concerns about a slowdown in economic growth across the globe.”

Leading the buoyant mood was mobile phone giant Vodafone, which gained 6.9p, or 3 per cent, to 236.5p as investors awaited their £51 billion windfall from the sale of its 45 per cent interest in Verizon Wireless.

IG market analyst David Madden said: “Vodafone shareholders are in a win-win position; the pay-out from the Verizon deal will come in the form of a dividend and Verizon shares. What is left of Vodafone could become a takeover target.”

Royal Bank of Scotland added 4.4p to 360.1p amid speculation that next week’s results could bring heavy job losses as part of a radical restructuring, while Barclays closed up 2.75p at 258p.

Broadcaster ITV, which also delivers full-year results next week, was among the biggest blue-chip fallers despite upbeat analyst sentiment, dropping 3.6p to 204.2p.

Royal Mail fell 9p to 600p after regulator Ofcom opened an investigation into a complaint by TNT Post UK about changes to Royal Mail’s access contracts, which are due to come into effect from the end of next month.