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Banks and economic news propel Footsie higher

The Footsie extended the morning's gains to stand 140.94 points up at 6008 by lunchtime
Banks and
Analysts said the UK economy was still too dependent on consumer spending

Upbeat corporate news and positive economic data gave the London market a boost on Thursday.

Lloyds reported a 5% rise in underlying profit to £8.1bn, or 10% excluding TSB, on a 1% rise in total income to £17.6bn, although pre-tax profit fell 7% to £1.6bn.

The bank set aside another £4bn for insurance mis-selling claims, taking the total to £16bn, but recommended a total annual dividend payout of 2.25p and a special dividend of 0.5p per share.

Impairment charges fell 48% to £568mln. Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: "Underlying profits that meet expectations, a fall in charges for bad loans, no mention of oil and an increase in the dividend all mean today’s full-year results from Lloyds Banking Group compare favourably with those released by sector peers Standard Chartered (LON:STAN) and HSBC (LON:HSBA) earlier this week."

The Footsie extended the morning's gains to stand 140.94 points up at 6008 by lunchtime, helped by positive news from the continent as Eurozone loans to businesses rebounded in January & money supply growth improved.

The UK's Office for National Statistics confirmed that GDP growth improved slightly to 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter of 2015 from 0.4% in the third quarter.

But it was still below growth rates in 2014, with the result that year-on-year growth dipped to 1.9% - the weakest since the first quarter of 2013.

Analysts also said it showed the UK was still too reliant on the service sector and consumer spending, rather than manufacturing.

Connor Campbell at spread-betting firm Spreadex said: "Whilst this was good and somewhat relieving news, the GDP report was in no way flawless."

Back in the market, BT got a reprieve, albeit possibly temporary, from having to hive off its network arm Openreach, although watchdog Ofcom said the division must become more independent. Shares rose 23.45p to 481.9p.

British American Tobacco (LON:BATS) reversed earlier losses to stand 14p ahead at 3848p as annual profits and revenue rose but group cigarette volume fell by 0.5% to 663 billion, despite higher market share.

Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) dropped 58.5p to 1815.5p after Moody's downgraded the miner to Baa1 from A3, saying the rating needed to reflect the worse-than-expected downturn in the mining sector and commodity prices.

Premier Oil (LON:PMO) leaked 2p to 39.25p after annual pre-tax losses more than doubled in the face of falling oil prices.

Hummingbird Resources (LON:HUM) backtracked a penny to 19p after the Mali gold miner extended its US$15m bridge facility with Taurus Mining for another six months to September.

Shares in Tlou Energy (LON:TLOU) rose 0.88p, or more than 23%, to 4.62p on news that the Africa-focused coal-bed methane group had begun production testing from a pilot well at the Lesedi project, Botswana.

Shares in e-commerce services provider Earthport (LON:EPO) plummeted 6.88p, or 27.6%, to 18p as it flagged a potential financial loss of £5mln due to suspected fraud.

Online secure payments group SafeCharge (LON:SCH) has landed a new contract with Paddy Power Betfair (LON:PPB), boosting its shares by 8.5p to 250.5p.

LONDON OPEN

Upbeat results from Lloyds Banking Group (LON:LLOY) helped give the FTSE 100 Index a boost on Thursday.

Lloyds reported a 5% rise in underlying profit to £8.1bn, or 10% excluding TSB, on a 1% rise in total income to £17.6bn, although pre-tax profit fell 7% to £1.6bn.

The bank set aside another £4bn for insurance mis-selling claims, taking the total to £16bn, but recommended a total annual dividend payout of 2.25p and a special dividend of 0.5p per share.

Impairment charges fell 48% to £568mln. Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: "Underlying profits that meet expectations, a fall in charges for bad loans, no mention of oil and an increase in the dividend all mean today’s full-year results from Lloyds Banking Group compare favourably with those released by sector peers Standard Chartered (LON:STAN) and HSBC (LON:HSBA) earlier this week."

The Footsie climbed 93.79 points to 5960, helped by positive news from the continent as Eurozone loans to businesses rebounded in January & money supply growth improved.

The UK's Office for National Statistics confirmed that GDP growth improved slightly to 0.5% quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter of 2015 from 0.4% in the third quarter

But it was still below growth rates in 2014, with the result that year-on-year growth dipped to 1.9% - the weakest since the first quarter of 2013.

Back in the market, BT also got a reprieve, albeit potentially temporary, from having to hive off its network arm Openreach, although watchdog Ofcom said it would have to boost the division's independence. Shares rose 10p to 468.45p.

British American Tobacco (LON:BATS) fell 31p to 3803p as annual profits and revenue rose but group cigarette volume fell by 0.5% to 663 billion, despite higher market share.

Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) dropped 51p to 1823p after Moody's downgraded the miner to Baa1 from A3, saying the rating needed to reflect the worse-than-expected downturn in the mining sector and commodity prices.

Premier Oil (LON:PMO) leaked 1.25p to 40p after annual pre-tax losses more than doubled in the face of falling oil prices.

Hummingbird Resources (LON:HUM) backtracked 0.25p to 19.75p after the Mali gold miner extended its US$15m bridge facility with Taurus Mining for another six months to September.

Shares in Tlou Energy (LON:TLOU) rose 1p, or nearly 27%, to 4.75p on news that the Africa-focused coal-bed methane group had begun production testing from a pilot well at the Lesedi project, Botswana.

MARKET PREVIEW

London’s blue-chip stocks are expected to start higher on Thursday, though yet again the crude market remains a key factor for equities.

Wall Street yesterday staged a dramatic intraday reversal as oil prices recovered late on.

Having begun Wednesday’s trading more than 1% lower, the Dow Jones closed out the session some 53 points or 0.3% higher at 16,484. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq, meanwhile, ended 0.4% and 0.87% to the good.

It came after statistics from the US Energy Department showed a 3.5mln barrel rise in American crude stockpiles. Whilst not in itself positive, the weekly increase in inventories was actually only half as bad as Tuesday’s 7.1mln barrel build as reported by the American Petroleum institute the day before.

This morning, Brent crude is up 2.7% to $34.20 per barrel while US crude futures are slightly higher at around $31.90.

Trading was mixed in Asia.

Japan’s Nikkei was up 1.4% at 16,140. But Chinese stocks were back on the slide. The Shanghai Composite fell 6% to 2,742 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.4%.

Australia’s ASX 200 edged slightly higher.

In London, IG Markets sees a positive start. The CFD and spreadbetting group called the FTSE 100 up 65 points, at 5,924 to 5,926.

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