Markets: Equities in ‘separate realm’ rally on

The London market carried on its rally yesterday even as commodity and oil prices slumped and the pound was sold off.

Better-than-expected UK jobs figures and an improved business confidence survey from France propelled the FTSE 100 index to a fresh five-year high, up 16.3 points at 6,395.4.

Brenda Kelly at IG said: “Equity markets continue to operate in a separate realm, divorced from realistic growth prospects as investors pushed the FTSE to a fresh five-year high.”

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Drinks can maker Rexam topped the blue chip risers’ board after posting higher profits, up 1 per cent on an underlying basis to £418 million, and boosting its dividend. Shares in the firm lifted 5 per cent or 25.3p to 502p.

Royal Bank of Scotland was given a boost by Credit Suisse as the broker lifted its target price from 250p to 260p, although it retained an “underperform” rating. The stock is already far ahead of that level, and added a further 2.6 per cent to 354.1p.

Peer Barclays, which has enjoyed stellar share price gains in recent months, was lower after Goldman Sachs downgraded it to “neutral”. The bank was down 1.5 per cent at 320p.

And there was disappointment for investors in RSA Insurance after the More Than owner slashed its full-year dividend payment by a third. The company said the decision to rebase its dividend was a prudent move that reflected the impact of falling bond yields on investment returns and its desire to focus on growth opportunities going forward.

RSA shares dived 14 per cent or 19.3p to 117p. Other insurers were also affected, with Aviva off 15.2p at 354p and specialist insurance underwriter Catlin down 22.5p to 503p in the FTSE 250 Index.

NEW YORK: The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index posted its worst daily percentage decline since mid-November after minutes from the US Federal Reserve suggested it may stop buying assets sooner than expected.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 108.13 points, or 0.77 per cent, to end at 13,927.54 while the S&P 500 was down 18.99 points, or 1.24 per cent, to close at 1,511.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index closed down 49.19 points, or 1.53 per cent, at 3,164.41.