Friday, December 25, 2009

U.K. Stocks Gain; FTSE 100 Reaches Highest Since September 2008

Dec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index rose to the highest level since September 2008, with the benchmark gauge extending its biggest annual rally since 1997, as shares of mining companies advanced.

Fresnillo Plc, Rio Tinto Group and BHP Billiton Ltd. gained at least 1.3 percent as metals prices climbed on the London Metal Exchange. RSA Insurance Group Plc, the U.K.’s biggest non-life insurer, led declining shares.

The FTSE 100 gained 30.03, or 0.6 percent, to 5,402.41, bringing this year’s rally to 22 percent. That’s the highest closing level since Sept. 12 last year, the final trading session before Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. filed for the world’s biggest bankruptcy.

The measure has rebounded 53 percent since March 9 as central banks cut interest rates to record lows and governments worldwide committed about $12 trillion to revive the economy. The FTSE All-Share Index rose 0.4 percent today and Ireland’s ISEQ Index slipped 1.1 percent.

“It’s been a good few weeks” for equities, said Manoj Ladwa, a markets strategist at ETX Capital in London. “Whether momentum can be maintained in 2010 is a tougher question.”

Fresnillo, the world’s largest primary silver producer, surged 6.1 percent to 793.5 pence. BHP Billiton, the world’s biggest mining company, advanced 1.3 percent to 1,970 pence. Rio Tinto, the third largest, gained 2.3 percent to 3,370 pence. Copper, lead, nickel and tin prices climbed in London.

RSA Insurance slipped 1.5 percent to 119.1 pence, leading declining shares on the FTSE 100.

Trading on the London Stock Exchange closed at 12:30 p.m. for the Christmas holiday. All markets in Europe are closed tomorrow and the U.K. market will also be shut on Dec. 28.

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