Some decent economic data and soothing comments from US Fed chairman Ben Bernanke encouraged investors back into shares after having been spooked by the uncertain results of the Italian elections.
Though there was still some tension ahead of an Italian government bond auction and European economic data, Bernanke’s silencing of rumours that the US central bank may pull back from its stimulative policy measures allowed investors to consider shares on their own merit.
The euro also recovered slightly, up 0.2% to $1.3084 ahead of a key Italian auction of government bonds. Oil prices recovered too, with Brent crude futures up 0.4% to $113.16 per barrel.
Top of the pack among London shares, leading a FTSE 100 that was up 0.44% to 6,298, was Weir (WEIR.L), the supplier of pumps to the oil, mining and power industries. Shares rose by 2.5% to 2,220p after the Citywire Top Stock posted a 12% rise in profits for 2012, better than had been expected by analysts. Weir chief executive Keith Cochrane promised the ‘eighth consecutive year of double digit dividend growth’.
ITV (ITV.L) was also among the top risers, climbing 1.4% to 121p, after announcing it would dish out a £156 million special dividend to shareholders. Group revenues of £196 million for 2012 were better than had been forecast by the City. ITV is also a Citywire Top Stock.
William Mairs of Nomura listed strong advertising, good studios performance and an in-line dividend among positives from ITV’s results, but added that the reinvestment of cost savings and higher pension costs were among negatives. Overall though Mairs kept his ‘buy’ rating.
Aviva (AV.L) rose by 0.8% to 351p after the insurer announced the sale of its Russian business for €35 million.
Oil services company Petrofac (PFC.L) was the biggest faller among UK blue chips, off 4.8% to 1,520p, despite announcing both a 17% rise in 2012 profits and 17% boost to its full year dividend.
Centrica (CNA.L), the owner of British Gas, dropped marginally to 348p after announcing full year results that broadly met expectations, with pre-tax profits of £2.7 billion.
Diageo (DGE.L) shares were also among the top fallers as the company went ex-dividend (trading without its dividend attraction).