Insurers drive FTSE to four-year high

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A BROKER upgrade helped insurance giant Admiral drive London’s top shares to new four-year highs yesterday.

With Goldman Sachs hiking its target price from 1,160p to 1,500p and changing its recommendation on the shares to “buy”, Admiral was up nearly 5 per cent at 1,211p. Sector peer Aviva was in hot pursuit, up 2.4 per cent at 374.9p.

Traders in the US enjoyed a long weekend for Martin Luther King Day, and that kept volume on European stock markets low. However, the FTSE 100 index carried on the rally that has seen it add 4.5 per cent since the start of the year. The index added 26.6 points at 6,181.

Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari, said: “European stock markets benefited from the lack of news, earnings and economic data released, with the major indices higher by around 0.5 per cent. “The FTSE 100 moved ever closer to May 2008 highs as the stock market bubble continued to rise supported by monetary stimulus measures from all over the globe, a lack of bad news out of the eurozone and extremely low earnings expectations.”

Reports that Royal Bank of Scotland might reorganise its investment arm found favour with investors, pushing the shares 8.1p higher, to 366.9p.

Engineering group Meggitt was among the fallers after it was revealed that one of its US subsidiaries had produced the battery chargers for Boeing’s grounded Dreamliner aircraft. The battery systems are being investigated by authorities looking into recent problems with the hi-tech plane. Meggitt was down 7.8p at 429.4p.

Temporary power supplier Aggreko was hit by a downgrade from Bank of America, which slashed its price target for the shares by more than a quarter, to 1,950p. The Glasgow-headquartered firm dropped 24p to 1,806p.

On the Alternative Investment Market, Edinburgh-based Craneware was on the rise after a positive update on the first half of its financial year. The hospital billing software specialist, which trades mostly in the US, added 4.5 per cent or 17.5p to 405p after saying revenues and profits grew by about 15 per cent. Analysts at N+1Singer said the shares looked attractive when compared with US peers.

The US markets were closed.