Market edges ahead on QE prospects

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London’s benchmark share index set fresh five-year highs last night, with miners boosted by good results from Antofagasta and the market underpinned by low volatility and hopes for more fiscal stimulus.

Blue chips shrugged off worse-than-expected manufacturing figures showing output slid by 1.5 per cent during a snow-hit January. The dire result raised the chances of further quantitative easing from the Bank of England.

Brenda Kelly, a market analyst at IG, said: “The likelihood that the UK could slip back into recession did little to dent equity investors, as the buy-on-the-dips brigade kept the FTSE above its new five-year high on hopes of increased central bank stimulus.”

The FTSE 100 closed 6.99 points higher at 6,510.62, a gain of 0.1 per cent amid a mixed day for other major European markets. France’s Cac-40 saw a similar rise to London, but Germany’s Dax fell by 0.2 per cent.

UK stocks have proven resilient to recent disappointing economic news and the Footsie is close to its pre-financial crisis level thanks to a marked rally since the start of the year.

Ten years ago, the benchmark closed at 3,287 – its lowest point since June 1995 – as investors fretted about the prospect of war in Iraq. Banking stocks have suffered a tumultuous decade since then, but Lloyds Banking Group was higher yesterday after it completed the placing of a 20 per cent stake in wealth manager St James’s Place.

The move will raise £400 million and should allay any lingering fears over its capital position. Shares were 0.6p higher at 50.6p.

Antofagasta was one of the session’s biggest gainers, up 34p at 1,129p, after it delivered a one-off special dividend following a 4.6 per cent rise in underlying earnings to $3.2 billion (£2.2bn).

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 ended lower last night, breaking a 
seven-day string of gains as 
investors pulled back from technology and financial shares.

The Dow Jones industrial 
average – which set a fresh intra-day high – closed just 2.77 points, or 0.02 per cent, ahead at 14,450.06 while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 3.74 points, or 0.24 per cent, finishing at 1,552.48. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 10.55 points, or 0.32 per cent, to close at 3,242.32.