MARKET CLOSE: Standard Life helps push FTSE higher

Standard Life HQ Lothian Road, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna
Standard Life HQ Lothian Road, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE benchmark FTSE 100 Index crept closer to an all-time high, even with Greece and European creditors a long way from resolving the country’s debt crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a “significant improvement in the substance” of Greece’s request for a six-month extension to its loan arrangements.

Despite this, the Footsie ended the final session of the week up 26.3 points at 6,915.2, the second highest top-flight closing level after the 6,930.2 set on 30 December 1999.

Standard Life was one of the biggest risers after it said operating profits grew 19 per cent to £604 million last year.

It added that it more than doubled the number of auto-enrolment pension customers in the UK, taking the total to over 560,000 since the process began.

With the Edinburgh-based firm increasing its total dividend by 7.8 per cent, shares in the company jumped almost 3 per cent or 11.1p to 419.6p.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “The week has ended with another new 15-year high finish for the FTSE-100 as the Greek debt talks rumble on. A comparatively benign session for crude oil has added a degree of stability amongst some of the heavyweight energy stocks.

“Those bumper numbers from Standard Life this morning are also contributing to the good fortunes of the London index.”

One of the biggest fallers in the top flight was B&Q owner Kingfisher, which slipped 6.6p to 341.3p after its shares were cut to underweight by Barclays.

Another faller was housebuilder Persimmon – off 15p to 1,694p – after a downgrade from JP Morgan Cazenove.

In the FTSE 250 Index, shares in troubled outsourcing firm Serco received a much-needed boost after broker Credit Suisse upgraded the stock to neutral. Shares were almost 6 per cent higher, a rise of 11.5p to 211.9p.

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