FTSE and Dow charge to new highs

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The FTSE 100 surged to its highest level since the collapse of Lehman Brothers yesterday as gains inspired by encouraging home news turned into a feeding frenzy once New York’s Dow Jones opened at record levels – with the benchmark US index going on to set new intra-day and closing highs.

London’s top shares index added 86.3 points or 1.4 per cent to close at 6,432 as positive retail and service sector figures combined with hints that the US central bank will keep printing money at unprecedented levels for some time to come.

Angus Campbell, head of market analysis at Capital Spreads, said: “With the Federal Reserve in the US committed to an unconventional and exceptionally easy monetary policy, investors see the banking crisis and subsequent sovereign debt crises as a distant memory as they buy into equities in even greater quantities. This has of course rubbed off on investors this side of the Atlantic with the FTSE 100 powering back above the 6,400 level.”

Outsourcing firm Serco was the biggest blue chip riser, up almost 9 per cent to 630.5p after a 27 per cent jump in pre-tax profits beat analyst’s expectations. It also increased its dividend by a fifth.

Aberdeen-based energy services firm Wood Group was not far behind, as it also celebrated a bumper results day with a big hike in its annual payout. Shares were 60p or 8 per cent up at 818p.

And Standard Chartered finally gave the banking sector something to cheer as it enjoyed a tenth year of unbroken profits growth. Shares have risen 30 per cent in the last six months and were up yesterday by 3 per cent or 57.5p to 1,837.5p. Royal Bank of Scotland was 5.9p stronger at 312.8p and Lloyds Banking Group lifted 0.7p to 52p.

NEW YORK: The Dow soared to a record closing high last night, breaking through levels last seen in 2007 as investors rushed in to join the party in anticipation of more gains.

The Dow shot up 126.18 points, or 0.89 per cent, to end at 14,253.92 – having earlier hit the heights of 14,286 – while the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 14.60 points, or 0.96 per cent, to finish at 1,539.80. The Nasdaq Composite Index jumped 42.10 points, or 1.32 per cent, to close at 3,224.13.