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London open: Stocks closing in on three-week high, but Barclays falls

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UK markets were performing well on Tuesday morning as decent gains from Babcock, mining stocks and retailers offset a poorly-received set of results from banking heavyweight Barclays.

The FTSE 100 was trading 0.8% higher at 6,646 in early trading; it has not closed above this level since 23 January when it closed at 6,773.

Markets across the globe are likely to focus on Janet Yellen’s testimony to the House Financial Services Committee later this afternoon, with investors eager to gauge her thoughts on the Fed’s staged withdrawal of stimulus after she took over from former central bank head Ben Bernanke this month.

Given that there is still six weeks to go before the Fed’s next meeting – during which there will be a lot of upcoming economic data – Yellen is likely to “reinforce comments made by other Fed officials recently that there is a high bar to pulling back from tapering,” said Chief Market Analyst Michael Hewson from CMC Markets.

“We could also find out whether the recent turmoil in emerging markets came up for discussion in the deliberations surrounding the recent decision to taper further,” he said.

In other news, figures showed this morning that like-for-like UK retail sales rose by 3.9% in January compared with the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium/KPMG sales monitor. This was much higher than the 0.4% growth registered in December and the 0.8% increase expected by analysts.

Meanwhile, interbank lending rates in China eased overnight following the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, while the People’s Bank of China reportedly refrained from conducting reverse-repurchase operations.

Barclays falls, Babcock and miners gain

Banking giant Barclays reported a 32% fall in 2013 adjusted pre-tax profit to reach £5.16bn reflecting a fall in income, costs of restructuring and exceptional items. Adjusted income fell 4% to £28.15bn due to a reduction of £1,042m in the Investment Bank and £480m in the Head Office.

Leading the risers was engineering group Babcock International after it said that third-quarter trading saw high activity levels in all divisions, helped by the improving economic climate. Sector peers Meggitt and Rolls-Royce were also higher this morning.

Kazakhstan-focused copper miner Kazakhmys surged after Kazakhstan’s central bank devalued the local currency, the tenge, by 19%. This, analysts at Investec said, will lead to a 10% reduction in costs for Kazakhmys given that around half of its costs are tenge-denominated. The broker, however, warned that the move could lead to high inflation in the coming years.

Commodities trader and mining giant Glencore Xstrata was also higher this morning after saying that it had increased production across most of its major commodity classes in 2013.

Other miners, including Polymetal, Lonmin and Fresnillo were also making gains this morning as metal prices advanced.

A number of retailers were performing well this morning after the strong retail sales data, with Kingfisher, M&S and Debenhams trading higher. Homewares chain Dunelm wasn’t far behind after lifting its interim dividend by 11.1% as profits edged higher in its first half.

FTSE 100 – Risers

Fresnillo (FRES) 891.50p +3.36%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 1,374.00p +2.38%
Kingfisher (KGF) 373.40p +2.27%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 480.50p +2.17%
Prudential (PRU) 1,305.00p +2.11%
Meggitt (MGGT) 535.00p +2.10%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,622.00p +2.03%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,213.00p +2.02%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 1,264.00p +1.81%
Amec (AMEC) 1,091.00p +1.68%

FTSE 100 – Fallers

Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,579.00p -1.37%
Barclays (BARC) 271.50p -1.27%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 101.90p -0.59%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,800.00p -0.36%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 82.63p -0.29%
GKN (GKN) 405.10p -0.07%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 221.95p -0.02%