MONDAY MARKET CLOSE: Stocks edge higher as Greece eyes debt deal

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Ongoing concerns about Greece’s ability to avoid defaulting on its debt weighed on traders’ minds during a session that saw blue-chip stocks scrape into positive territory.

Chris Beauchamp, senior market analyst at IG, said: “Greece has declared that its payment last week to the International Monetary Fund had effectively cleaned out one of the last reserves of cash available, although given its ability to keep pulling rabbits from hats this little trick might get employed again.”

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Picture: AP

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. Picture: AP

With Athens signalling that it needs a deal with its bailout lenders by the end of the month to avoid a default, the FTSE 100 edged up 8.38 points to 6,968.87.

Among top-flight stocks, silver miner Fresnillo was the biggest gainer, rising 40.5p or 5.4 per cent to 792.5p after telling investors its 2018 production target remains in place at 65 million ounces – that compares with 45 million ounces last year.

BT dipped 1.65p to 461.35p as the competition regulator said the telecoms giant had asked for the probe into its £12.5 billion takeover of mobile phone firm EE to be taken to a second, in-depth phase. If the Competition & Markets Authority goes ahead with a “fast track” procedure, the watchdog said it would expect to issue a decision on the deal within the next three weeks.

Engineering group Babcock added 30p, or 2.8 per cent, to close at 1,111p on the back of a surge in annual profits, helped by its acquisition of helicopter operator Avincis, while fellow defence contractor BAE Systems edged down 1.5p to 502p. The two are part of a consortium building next-generation warships for the Royal Navy at the Rosyth dockyard.

Chocolatier Thorntons rose 3.6p or 3.8 per cent to 98.62p as chief executive Jonathan Hart said he would step down after four years in charge. Hart will be replaced on a temporary basis by chief operating officer Barry Bloomer.