WEDNESDAY MARKET CLOSE: ECB leak sends Footsie surging 1.6%

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A LEAKED report suggesting the European Central Bank is about to launch a €50 billion (£38bn)-a-month bond-buying programme sent markets into a frenzy.

Aided by a bounce in oil stocks, the FTSE 100 Index was one of the biggest beneficiaries ahead of ECB president “Super” Mario Draghi’s announcement, due Thursday. The Footsie closed 107.94 points or 1.6 per cent higher at 6,728.04, notching up a fifth straight session in the black.

Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “Even Super Mario the plumber couldn’t prevent all the leaks from the ECB this week. Everybody from unknown sources to governing council members to national leaders have been espousing knowledge of what’s coming in the ECB announcement.

“Expectations for the ECB meeting have been built up to such a degree that it’s become very questionable whether it’s possible for president Draghi to meet them.”

As Brent crude firmed at $49 a barrel, a range of oil and gas companies felt the benefit as traders continued to sift for bargains in the beleaguered sector. BG Group was up 36.6p to 885.9p, BP was 13.8p higher at 426p, and Tullow Oil rose 14.5p to 384.5p.

But it was publishing group Pearson which set the pace in the top flight with a rise of 5 per cent or 60p to 1,296p, after it said full-year results will be in line with expectations despite challenging market conditions.

Sports Direct International was the biggest blue chip faller as it emerged that founder Mike Ashley had reduced his stake to 55 per cent, from 57.5 per cent, raising about £110 million.

The move caused the blue-chip stock to fall by 44p to 716.5p, a drop of almost 6 per cent, even though it is thought Ashley was raising funds for other projects such as a muted move for Rangers FC.

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