THURSDAY MARKET CLOSE: Strong updates add fuel to FTSE rally

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A WAVE of positive numbers from the likes of Lloyds and BSkyB helped propel the FTSE 100 to a two-month high.

The Footsie built on a steady session with a late push to close 28.84 points higher at 6,808.87.

Lloyds added more than 5 per cent, up 4.14p at 79.5p, with its 22 per cent rise in underlying quarterly profits helping Royal Bank of Scotland climb 2.6p at 306.6p.

Sky was up 20.5p higher at 900.5p as its customer numbers received positive broker comment, while BG Group was also on the up as a drop in profits proved less drastic than had been feared. Its shares climbed 3.3 per cent to 1,237.5p.

But the supermarket chains were under pressure as investors assumed that Sainsbury’s and Tesco would have to follow suit when rival Morrisons announced price cuts.

Jasper Lawler, analyst at CMC Markets said: “It’s a double whammy for supermarkets as basic food costs including corn and wheat have risen this year but competition from discounters have forced them to cut prices when they might have otherwise risen them.”

Sainsbury’s was down 10.6p at 325.1p and Tesco dropped 6.4p to 286.55p. Morrisons was also lower, easing 3.4p to 197.5p.

Outside the top flight, hotels group Millennium & Copthorne was up 10p at 565p despite reporting a drop in revenues and profits. It said that since the quarter’s end, its Asian business had grown despite being affected by political turmoil.

Shares in Alliance Trust offered little reaction to its latest figures, which showed that the firm enjoyed a modest inflow of £22 million to the funds it manages during the last quarter. The Dundee-based stalwart was 0.7p higher at 422.7p, as funds under management hit £2.2 billion.