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London open: FTSE 100 closing in on record high, Unilever jumps

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UK markets were closing in on their all-time highs on Tuesday, with the FTSE 100 surpassing last year's high in morning trade despite weakness in the heavyweight mining sector.

It was a rather lacklustre session for financial markets across Europe on Monday given that Wall Street was closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Today, however, is likely to see a return to normal trading volumes with US markets due to open as usual later this afternoon.

London’s benchmark FTSE 100 was trading 0.14% higher early on at around 6,846.

If index holds on to these gains, it will surpass last year’s closing high of 6,840.27 reached in May 2013, coming within touching distance of the record high of 6,930 hit in December 1999.

Sentiment has been lifted by a positive finish for Asian markets overnight on the back of an easing of credit conditions in China as the central bank reportedly injected fresh liquidity into the country’s large banks to meet demand for cash ahead of Chinese New Year later this month.

“This comes a day after [data showed that] Chinese growth for 2013 eased, indicating that the central bank there stands ready to act with measures to ease credit conditions in the face of stalling growth – markets have taken heart to this,” said Market Strategist Ishaq Siddiqi from ETX Capital.

Unilever jumps, miners fall

Consumer products group Unilever was a high riser this morning after reporting underlying sales growth of 4.3% for 2013, helped by strong growth in the emerging markets. Smaller peer PZ Cussons, however, fell after saying that currency headwinds limited growth in its first half.

Mining stocks were firmly out of favour due to weakness in metals prices. Investors were also focusing on comments from Goldman Sachs which adjusted its commodity price forecasts for 2014 and beyond. The US bank raised its estimates for zinc, lead and potash; kept iron ore and thermal coal unchanged; but downgraded coking coal and platinum forecasts.

As such, Anglo American, the largest producer of platinum in the world, was among the worst performers, followed by Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, Randgold, Glencore Xstrata and Fresnillo.

Bucking the trend was African Barrick Gold as the Tanzania-focused miner beat its own full-year guidance for gold production.

Beverages group SABMiller was also lower as investors gave a cool reaction to an update on its third-quarter, during which beer volumes rose by a less-than-expected 1%.

FTSE 100 – Risers

Unilever (ULVR) 2,530.00p +3.82%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 2,983.00p +2.58%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,706.00p +1.97%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,348.50p +1.54%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,729.00p +1.37%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 370.80p +1.31%
British Land Co (BLND) 669.50p +1.21%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,527.00p +1.19%
Tate & Lyle (TATE) 794.50p +1.02%
IMI (IMI) 1,564.00p +0.84%

FTSE 100 – Fallers

SABMiller (SAB) 3,025.00p -2.23%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,127.00p -1.39%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,295.00p -1.23%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 227.30p -0.92%
Fresnillo (FRES) 770.00p -0.84%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 335.45p -0.75%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,872.50p -0.74%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,383.00p -0.72%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 896.00p -0.55%
William Hill (WMH) 360.00p -0.55%

Source: ShareCast

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