Aviva and Friends Life ensured their sector dominated the risers’ board in a session when the FTSE 100 set another closing high.
The pair were each just over 7 per cent higher, with Friends Life up 28.7p at 434.9p and Aviva adding 37.5p at 569.5p, as they both unveiled better-than-expected figures ahead of their planned merger. Standard Life climbed 18.8p at 442p and Admiral added 55p at 1,514p despite a drop in its own profits.
The FTSE 100 fell just short of intra-day highs but beat its record for the close at 6,961.14, up 41.9 points on the day. Sentiment was helped by the European Central Bank (ECB), which stuck by its bond-buying plans despite a sunnier outlook.
Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC, said: “There were some initial jitters when the ECB lifted its eurozone growth forecast for 2015 and 2016 given the implication that the QE program may end early.
“But early concerns were soon reconciled when president Draghi implied the program would end in September 2016 at the earliest subject to inflation in the eurozone.”
Progress on the Footsie came despite ex-dividend moves from some of its largest constituents. HSBC was down 2.7 per cent at 570.6p, and miner Rio Tinto dropped 2.9 per cent to 2,985p, as both traded without rights to their latest payout. Analysts said ex-dividend factors took almost 15 points off the FTSE 100 Index.
Meanwhile, ITV shares made good viewing for investors for a second session in a row after Goldman Sachs added the broadcaster to its “conviction buy” list.
The company’s shares lifted almost 3 per cent or 6.5p to 241p, following a 6 per cent jump the previous day when annual results included a £250 million special dividend.