New high for index as anxieties ease

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LONDON’S top-flight index was buoyed by relief over recent developments for debt-ridden Greece as it surged to a new high, surpassing its previous peak last month.

The FTSE 100 closed 74.41 points higher at 7,089.77 after anxieties over the eurozone were eased after the completion of a Greek debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund while there was further cheer with a surprise rise in the country’s industrial production.

Tony Cross, analyst at TrustNet Direct, said the stage was set for more records in the weeks ahead.

“It’s worth bearing in mind that sentiment is still being depressed by the uncertainty of what next month’s General Election will hold so arguably once this is clear, the London index could realistically find itself charging higher again.”

Figures showing industrial production grew by just 0.1 per cent in February amid a slump in the oil and gas sector, while the construction sector shrank by 0.9 per cent - its second month of contraction in a row - weighed on sterling.

Economists said the figures appeared to indicate overall growth slowing from 0.6% in the final quarter of 2014 to 0.4% in the first quarter of this year. That would be the weakest pace of growth since the end of 2013.

In the top flight, positive broker comment lifted housebuilders inccluding Taylor Wimpey which rose 4.9p to 166.1p, Barratt Developments up 17p to 558p and Persimmon 24p higher at 1,757p. Drugs firm Shire was the biggest FTSE 100 riser - recovering from heavy losses on Thursday - after US regulators promised a decision by October on the company’s application to market a new drug for dry eye disease. The stock lifted 5 per cent or 260p to 5680p.