Shares rebound as jitters fade

Blue-chip shares have regained their poise after a gloomy couple of sessions weighed down by jitters over the value of internet and biotech firms.

The FTSE 100 Index climbed 44.9 points to 6635.6
The FTSE 100 Index climbed 44.9 points to 6635.6

Taking its cue from the resilient performance of Wall Street stocks in the previous session, the FTSE 100 Index climbed 44.9 points to 6635.6.

Germany's Dax and France's Cac 40 were also in positive territory, though their gains were less marked. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up too at the time of the close in London.

On currency markets, figures showing a slight improvement in the UK trade deficit in February had little effect on the pound, especially as goods exports were down to their lowest level in more than three years.

Sterling held firm at 1.68 US dollars and 1.21 euros.

In equities, London's FTSE 100 had fallen sharply in its previous two sessions due to a flight from risk caused by worries that the boom in tech stocks may be overdone.

But some of the casualties of the sell-off were on the front foot in the latest session, with chip designer Arm Holdings among them, leading the FTSE 100 risers' board as it climbed nearly 5%, or 44.5p, to 1029p.

House builder Barratt Developments, which was the subject of a downgrade from Goldman Sachs earlier in the week, was closely behind as it also recovered with a gain of 14.7p to 395.9p.

Other notable risers included B&Q owner Kingfisher after UBS upgraded its stance on the stock to buy following the announcement that the company is in talks to acquire Mr Bricolage in France. Shares lifted 14.1p to 436.4p.

It was joined on the way up by fellow retailer Next, which climbed 55p to 6465p, and by rival Travis Perkins, which gained 64p to reach 1851p.

Motor insurers endured a turbulent session after a survey showed the cost of insuring a car had fallen to a four-year low as motorists benefit from a record 19% drop in average premiums compared with a year ago.

The Confused.com car insurance price index, in association with Towers Watson, revealed that the average cost of comprehensive car insurance in the first quarter stood at £596, a drop of £140 against this time last year.

Insurance analyst Eamonn Flanagan of Shore Capital Stockbrokers said the report made for "grim reading" as he reiterated his sell ratings on the major players in the sector.

FTSE 100-listed Admiral was down by as much as 2%, or 32p, during the day, though it recovered to finish 9p up at 1392p.

However, esure led the FTSE 250 fallers' board at the close with a fall of 9%, or 23.7p, to 244p. Direct Line dropped 5.4p to 233.4p.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were ARM Holdings, up 44.5p to 1029p, Barratt Developments up 14.7p to 395.9p, Tullow Oil up 30.5p to 850p and Travis Perkins up 64p to 1851p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Randgold Resources down 130p to 4627p, Antofagasta down 22.5p to 848p, Fresnillo down 21p to 884p, Royal Mail down 10.5p to 515p.