Markets: US recovery hopes drive FTSE up 1%

Britain’s top share index last night hit its highest mark this year after further evidence of a US recovery triggered gains of more than 1 per cent – while a late surge on Wall Street saw the Dow Jones industrial average close above 13,000 for the first time in more than four years.

London’s leading shares index closed almost 63.2 points higher at 5,955.9 amid optimism that the US Federal Reserve would signal an improvement in the economic outlook but stick with a loose monetary policy when it met after European markets closed.

Prudential’s shares were up nearly 5 per cent, or 35p, to 763p after its Asian business drove a 33 per cent rise in pre-tax profits to £1.94 billion.

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Edinburgh-based Standard also bettered expectations with a 28 per cent rise in profits to £544 million, despite a 6 per cent drop in the UK. Its shares closed 0.9p higher at 238.5p.

The results bolstered other financial stocks. HSBC rose 16.3p to 572.4p, while Barclays was up 3.7p at 239.6p. Taxpayer-backed Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland were also higher after they both revealed plans to cut jobs. Lloyds improved 0.9p to 34.6p and RBS lifted 0.4p to 25.8p.

The biggest faller was Antofagasta, even though it said profits rose 32 per cent last year. Shares were 29p lower at 1,241p as it trimmed its pay-out in order to invest in new projects, but its solid performance bolstered the wider sector, with Vedanta up 4.5 per cent at 1,430p.