Britain's FTSE hits 6,200 after Unilever earnings boost

Wed Jan 23, 2013 12:34pm EST

* FTSE 100 ends up 0.3 pct after hitting new 4 1/2 year high
    * Unilever touches all-time high after sales beat forecasts
    * Energy stocks led higher by Tullow on drilling speculation

    By Alistair Smout
    LONDON, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Britain's FTSE 100 share index
hit the 6,200 level for the first time since May 2008 on
Wednesday after Unilever got the UK earnings season off to an
encouraging start, sending its stock to a record high.
    Shares of the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods company 
rose 3.1 percent to top 2,500 pence for the first time ever on
strong turnover after Unilever reported underlying sales growth
of 6.9 percent for 2012.
    It beat forecasts for 6.5 percent growth, propelled by a
double-digit sales expansion in emerging markets.
 
    The FTSE 100 saw a late surge that briefly took it
above the psychologically significant 6,200 level. It closed up
18.47 points, or 0.3 percent, at 6,197.64 with Unilever
accounting for 3.5 points of the index gain.
    The FTSE has now hit a fresh 4-1/2 year high in nine of the
past 11 sessions.
    "As we are now holding above some key levels on the FTSE
100, namely 6,105 and 6,150, we see continual upside from the
market from here," Atif Latif, director of trading at Guardian
Stockbrokers, said.
    "Earnings have once again beaten expectations and forward
looking estimates remain at elevated levels alongside better
economic data. From experience, we do expect this uptrend to
remain intact over the short term and break above some recent
highs."
    
    TULLOW LEADS LATE SURGE
    Leading the late surge was Tullow Oil. It rose 3.5
percent, overtaking Unilever as the top index riser, as rumours
circulated that drilling at a key well in Kenya which the
company part owns may have been successful, with official
results due shortly. 
    Tullow has a 50 percent share of the Kenyan Paipai prospect,
in partnership with UK mid-cap Afren and Canada's
Africa Oil, who hold 20 and 30 percent stakes
respectively. Afren closed 9.2 percent higher.
    "The reason [for the price moves] is market rumours that
drilling results on the Kenyan Paipai prospect are coming," a
trader said.
    Tullow shares were also supported by news that Uganda, where
the company has a significant presence, is to auction 13 more
blocks for oil and gas exploration. 
    In all, the energy sector including oil and gas firms added
9.3 points to the FTSE 100 index, while the FT350 Oil and Gas
firms index hit a three-month high.     

 (Editing by Susan Fenton)