Update: Miners have helped to prop up the FTSE 100, which clung onto gains as the session drew to a close, after solid industrial production data from top metals consumer China helped to boost metal prices.
The UK blue-chip index was up just four points at 7,143 at the close, but down from a high of 7,176 earlier in the session.
Miners were close behind, with risers including:
- Antofagasta (ANTO) +3.4% at 945.2p;
- Anglo American (AAL) +3.4% at £17.90;
- Glencore (GLEN) +2% at 384.2p;
Morrisons (MRW) was meanwhile the biggest faller, down 5% at 215p despite unveiling a 4p special dividend and 11% rise in full-year profits, as free cash flow fell from £670 million to £350 million.
On the FTSE 250, shares in Dignity (DTY) jumped 15.1% to 981.5p after reassuring investors with a 3% jump in profits, calming fears after January's profit warning. But the shares remain down 46% since the turn of the year.
Barry Norris, who had been 'shorting' the shares, or betting on them falling, quickly closed his small remaining position, of around 0.2% of his £59.2 million Argonaut Absolute Return fund, this morning.
Norris had been a big beneficiary of the shares' crash after January's profit warning, and had closed most of his short position following that fall.
'We closed out first thing this morning as the percentage of customers on the new cheaper deals is lower than anticipated which is causing the rally in the share price today,' he said.
'So to pardon the pun “a less grave situation than originally feared in January”. However the company still has a lot of debt and there’s a lot of uncertainty as to how the price cuts will play out so I’m not sure I would want to be long the stock.'
Dairy Crest (DCG) fell to the bottom of the index, down 7% at 510p after analysts at Peel Hunt cut their target price on the stock.
Among 'small-cap' stocks, Sportech (ROD) crashed 49.9% to 39p after the pools betting group said sales talks had failed and reported a series of writedowns due to accounting issues.