FRIDAY MARKET CLOSE: FTSE 100 firms add £71bn in a week

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Even across-the-board falls in the heavyweight mining sector couldn’t dampen the party for markets as the Footsie sealed its biggest weekly gain since 2011 with its seventh positive session in a row.

The FTSE 100 added 36.2 points to 6,832.83 as telecoms shares lifted on the prospect of consolidation in the sector.

The top flight rose 283 points across the week – adding £71 billion to the value of Britain’s biggest listed firms – and is now just under 100 points short of its all-time high set in December 1999.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “Telecoms firms lit up the leaderboard as the owner of Three, Hutchison Whampoa, triggered M&A speculation in the sector after it confirmed it was in talks over a £10.25bn deal to buy rival O2 from Spain’s Telefonica.”

BT shares were 9.9p higher at 431.1p while Vodafone rose 1.2p to 239.9p on expectations that it may be prompted to strike a telecoms deal of its own.

Oil stocks and mining stocks dominated the fallers board, even though the death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah had an upward impact on oil prices.

BG Group dropped 19.2p to 891.7p, but BP was 4p higher at 432.4p. Royal Dutch Shell dipped 24p to 2,274p ahead of its annual results next week.

In corporate updates, shares in Premier Foods surged by 9 per cent after it finished a challenging year with strong growth over the Christmas period. Among the improvement of its frontline brands, Mr Kipling cakes sold exceedingly well, helping shares move 3.5p higher at 40.25p.

Elsewhere, shares in discount retailer B&M were 6p higher at 308p after it reported like-for-like sales growth of 4.5 per cent for the 13 weeks to 27 December.

It expects to meet market forecasts after strong demand for Christmas decorations and gift ranges over the key trading period.