MARKET CLOSE: Bank and Budget give shares a boost

The London Stock Exchange building. Picture: Getty
The London Stock Exchange building. Picture: Getty
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MORE dovish comments from the Bank of England a generally business-friendly Budget helped the Footsie take a tripple-digit stride back towards its all-time highs.

The FTSE 100 Index gained 107.59 points, its biggest single session rise since mid-January, to close at 6,945.2 after minutes of the monetary policy committee’s last meeting expressed concern at the strength of of the pound against the euro.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “The market was initially cheered by the lower-than-expected wage growth news – something that pushes back the prospect of a Bank of England rate hike once again – whilst the messages over economic growth we saw in the Budget were also encouraging.”

Confirmed tax breaks for North Sea producers gave Centrica a shot in the arm, with the Scottish gas owner up 3.8p at 255p.

Heavyweights Royal Dutch Shell and BP were also cheered by the Budget moves to support the industry amid tumbling prices - while the cost of a barrel of Brent crude also climbed above $54. BP rose 10.2p to 436.1p while Shell was ahead 49.5p to 2118p.

The Help to Buy ISA unveiled by the Chancellor gave the housebuilders something to cheer too. Persimmon climbed 16p to 1,760p, Taylor Wimpey was 3.9p higher at 153.2p and Redrow added 7p to 347p.

But the day’s biggest gainer was Asia-facing Standard Chartered, which jumped 8 per cent to 1,043p after brokers rallied behind the stock with a series of upgrades.

In a quiet session for corporate news, shares in engineering conglomerate Smiths initially fell after it said half-year profits dropped by 3 per cent. But the stock later fought back amid the wider market cheer to finish 22p ahead at 1,200p.

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