THURSDAY MARKET CLOSE: US figures help FTSE out of its funk

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A LATE rally on the back of figures showing that US manufacturing expanded at the fastest pace in almost four years helped the FTSE 100 close in positive territory.

The index ended 16.28 points higher at 6,812.99, despite spending most of the day in the red. It was also helped by a dip in the value of the pound against the dollar after Bank of England policymaker Martin Weale said interest rates would likely rise in spring 2015.

Royal Bank of Scotland was 3.7p lower at 355.7p in advance of results next week.

David Madden, market analyst at IG, said: “It is one week until Royal Bank of Scotland releases its figures. Traders have taken heed from Lloyds’ announcement last week, and RBS is in a much more vulnerable position.”

BAE shares led the blue chip fallers’ board by some distance – down 36.4p to 400.4p – as it warned that it was feeling the heat from US defence spending cuts.

Other top flight fallers included can maker Rexam, which declined 9.5p to 515p after it reported weaker-than-expected sales for 2013, up 1 per cent to £3.9 billion.

The company, which supplies drinks firms including Coca-Cola, said it faced tough trading conditions in parts of Europe as well as higher aluminium costs.

Centrica shares were 6.6p higher at 320.6p as the Scottish Gas owner went on the offensive in the wake of a 2 per cent decline in operating profits last year.

Meanwhile, investors placed their chips on William Hill after Goldman Sachs said the bookmaker’s valuation was starting to look attractive again after recent falls. Shares were 10.4p higher at 356.2p, while FTSE 250 rival Ladbrokes dipped 1.7p to 147.9p.