FTSE in positive end to choppy week

Shares in London's top-flight ended the week on a positive note after a choppy few days buffeted by fears over the impact of the Ukraine crisis as well as the future of US monetary policy.

CPP Group sold card protection on behalf of lenders including HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland
CPP Group sold card protection on behalf of lenders including HSBC and Royal Bank of Scotland

The FTSE 100 Index tracked overnight improvements on Wall Street and in Asia to climb 14.7 points to 6557.2, having fallen on Thursday after Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen suggested rates could rise sooner than markets thought.

The impetus came from a leading indicator of US economic health, which rose in February by the largest amount in three months. Jobless benefits figures were also near pre-recession levels, pointing to a more stable job market

Demand-driven mining stocks were encouraged by the updates, with Fresnillo up 18.5p, or 2%, to 885p while Anglo American rose 28p to 1439.5p and Rio Tinto lifted 50p to 3207p.

Ishaq Siddiqi, market strategist at ETX Capital, said equity markets in Europe had adopted a calm mood following overnight gains in Asia.

"Ongoing geopolitical tensions in the Ukraine together with Fed chair Yellen's remarks regarding monetary tightening keep us anxious in general," he said, but added that traders had reached a "level of comfort" at the end of the week.

Germany's Dax and France's Cac 40 rose, while New York's Dow Jones Industrial Average built on Thursday's gains, boosted by ratings agency Fitch raising its outlook for the US.

On currency markets, the pound held firm despite worse than expected UK borrowing figures, at 1.65 US dollars and 1.20 euros.

The blue-chip fallers' board included Royal Bank of Scotland, which dropped 6.2p to 299.1p after the part-nationalised bank was downgraded by brokers at Barclays.

They said hefty restructuring costs were likely to hold back its value until 2016, and that the group faced a long road recovery before healthy returns could be expected. Fellow taxpayer-backed bank Lloyds was off 1.4p at 77.4p.

Shares in bookmakers remained under pressure after the Budget increased the tax on fixed odds betting terminals from 20% to 25%.

William Hill, which estimated the cost of the move at around £22 million, fell by another 7.5p to 339.1p, having lost around £300 million in value since Wednesday. Ladbrokes was down 3.1p at 131p.

Changes in the Budget giving retirees the freedom to draw down as much or as little of their pension pot as they want, removing the need to buy an annuity, continued to weigh on the pensions industry.

Legal & General, which fell sharply in the wake of Wednesday's announcement but steadied the next day, was down again, leading the FTSE 100 fallers' board with a slide of 3%, or 7.1p, to 206p.

Partnership Assurance, which provides enhanced annuities for people with lower life expectancies, lost half its value in the wake of the Budget, dropping further on Thursday, and again in the latest session when shares fell 1.8p to 122.2p.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Intercontinental Hotels Group, up 71p to 1937p, Fresnillo up 18.5p to 885p, Intertek up 61p to 3000p and Centrica up 6.8p to 337.9p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Legal & General, down 7.1p to 206p, Aberdeen Asset Management down 10.7p to 363.3p, Hargreaves Lansdown down 41p to 1414p and Aviva down 13.4p to 480.3p.