FTSE makes modest gains after oil price drop
LONDON'S top flight index made modest gains as commodity stocks shrugged off a further fall in the price of oil.
The FTSE 100 Index edged up 18.7 points to 6164.7, as blue-chip oil and mining companies held up against a 0.8 per cent slide in the price of Brent crude.
Royal Dutch Shell was up 8p to 1691.5p, while Rio Tinto climbed 32.5p to 1975.5p despite the oil price falling 32 cents to US$38.35 a barrel.
The price drop comes after last week's comments by Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman who poured cold water on the prospect of cutting oil production unless Iran and other major producers follow suit.
Germany's Dax was up 0.5 per cent and the Cac 40 in France rose to 0.3 per cent, as European markets rallied on the news that the Eurozone unemployment rate had dropped to 10.3 per cent in February – its lowest level since 2011.
The pound was up 0.3 per cent against the dollar at 1.42, as overall output from the UK construction industry beat expectations despite housebuilding activity growing at its slowest pace for more than three years in March.
The closely watched Markit/CIPS construction purchasing managers' index said growth in the construction industry came in ahead of expectations at 54.2 in March, unchanged from February when it hit a 10-month low. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Sterling was also up nearly 0.4 per cent against the euro at 1.25.
In stocks, miner Anglo American rose 9.1p to 547.5p after it said it had agreed to sell its 70 per cent interest in the Foxleigh coal mine in Australia to a consortium led by Taurus Fund Management for an undisclosed sum.
In February Anglo upped it target for the amount of money it wants to raise from disposals, to between US$5 billion and US$6bn by the end of this year, as it seeks to weather the sharp slide in commodities prices.
Confidence in the telecoms sector took a knock following the collapse of the merger between two of the biggest French players in the European telecoms market, Orange and Bouygues, after the French government refused to dilute its stake.
Vodafone was down 0.5p to 219.7p, while BT recovered from initial falls to rise 0.05p to 438.7p.
Annuity provider Just Retirement saw its share price come under pressure after announcing that it had completed its £1.6bn merger with rival Partnership Assurance as it looks to bolster its position in the new pensions market.
The new combination – called JRP Group – has started trading on the London Stock Exchange after finalising its scheme of arrangement merger in the High Court on Friday. Shares were down 1p to 152p
Retail giant Marks & Spencer saw its share price rise after it said it would keep new chief executive Steve Rowe at the head of its clothing business in a bid to shore up flagging sales.
The high street bellwether said Mr Rowe would continue to spearhead the general merchandising unit, which looks set to report a 3.4 per cent fall in like-for-like sales when it gives a quarterly update on Thursday. Shares rose 3.1p to 410.4p.
The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Mediclinic International up 30.5p to 928.5p, Shire up 118p to 4,200p, Anglo American up 9.1p to 547.5p, Rio Tinto, up 32.5p to 1975.5p.
The biggest fallers in the FTSE 100 Index were TUI down 30p to 1051p, Mondi down 34p to 1314p, Next down 135p to 5310p, Antofagasta down 9.7p to 44.2p.