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FTSE 100 ekes out small gains as Tullow sinks

FTSE 100 ekes out small gains as Tullow sinks

(Update 16:22) The FTSE 100 shook off earlier weakness to continue its slow December trudge higher, rising slightly alongside other ‘risk’ assets after signs of economic improvement in Germany. 

London’s benchmark index – which has been rising slowly since mid-November – eked out a small 7 point gain to 5928 while the euro climbed by 0.4% to $1.2995 after the ZEW survey of German investor sentiment leapt higher.  Investors were also responding to a Spanish bond auction and preparing for tomorrow’s conclusion of the US Federal Reserve’s policy setting meeting.

US markets opened higher, with the Dow and S&P 500 both making gains of around 0.8%, while the oil price climbed by 0.3% to $107, based on Brent crude futures.

In London, Tullow extended its losses, heading down nearly 8% to 1156p (see report below).

09:30: Whitbread sprints to top of flat FTSE 100

Hotel and restaurant group Whitbread (WTB.L) rose to the top of the FTSE 100, adding 98p, or 4%, to £25.26, as it reported 14.4% year-on-year growth in third quarter sales.

Costa Coffee contributed strongly to the group’s sales with 25.5% year-on-year growth, while the group's sales at its hotel chain Premier Inns increased 12.6%.

Britain’s markets got off to a lacklustre start as the FTSE 100 shed 0.01%, or 0.5 points, to 5,921 and the Mid-250 index added 0.1%, or 12 points, to 12,190.

HSBC (HSBA.L) agreed to pay $1.92 billion (£1.2 billion), the largest ever fine paid by a bank, to settle a criminal probe into money laundering at the bank.

The fine follows a report by the US Senate which was critical of the bank’s failure to put adequate money laundering controls in place when dealing with high-risk customers. The report also said the bank has been used by ‘drug kingpins and rogue nations’ for moving money around the world. Shares edged down 1.8p, or 0.3%, to 639p.

Standard Chartered (STAN.L) also agreed to pay a $327 million (£203 million) fine for violating US sanctions and dealing with customers in Iran, Sudan, Libya and Burma. Shares slipped 9.5p, or 0.6%, to £14.88.

Tullow Oil (TLW.L) languished at the bottom of the FTSE 100, down 68p, or 5.4%, to £11.91, as it announced it has agreed to buy Norwegian firm Spring Energy and sell its existing North Sea holdings, in a deal worth $372 million (£231 million).

Spring Energy holds 28 licences across Norway’s continental shelf and will drill 16 exploration wells over the next two years.

Diageo (DGE.L) shed 29p, or 1.5%, to £18.57 as its announced talks with Tequila-maker Jose Cuervo ended without an agreement to renew its distribution licence.

Miner ENRC (ENRC.L) fell 5.1p, or 1.8%, to £12.56 as analysts at Citigroup cut their rating on the stock from ‘neutral’ to ‘sell’.

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