FTSE ends higher after hitting five-month low, miners rally

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index ended higher on Thursday after slipping to a five-month low earlier in the session, with a strong bounce in miners and a rally in U.S. equities helping the broader market.

A red London bus passes the Stock Exchange in London February 9, 2011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index finished 0.4 percent higher at 6,707.88 points. It earlier fell to 6,625.16, its lowest since late January, as some companies traded without the attraction of their latest dividend payouts.

The index recovered after U.S. equities rose 1.1 to 1.3 percent, a day after the U.S. Federal Reserve indicated the pace of any rate hikes would be slower than expected.

Miners were the top gainers, with the sector index rising 1.8 percent, after copper climbed on upbeat Chinese data and a weaker dollar. A fall in the U.S. currency also helped gold prices.

“A rally in metals prices on the back of a softer dollar has helped the FTSE 100 to recover from earlier lows. The index is technically ‘oversold’ and a bounce back is due,” Securequity trader Jawaid Afsar said.

Shares in Anglo American, Fresnillo, Randgold Resources and BHP Billiton rose between 2.1 and 2.7 percent.

Despite the late recovery, investors stayed cautious. Concerns over the Greek debt crisis have hit shares, although the FTSE 100 outperformed the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index, up about 10 percent this year.

The FTSE 100 is up about 2 percent year to date as it has not felt the full benefit of monetary easing in the euro zone and has been hindered by a heavy weighting in commodity stocks as prices have come under pressure.

Thursday’s gains were capped by falls of 0.4, 2.9 and 3.1 percent respectively in shares of Land Securities Severn Trent and 3i Group as they traded ex-dividend.

The FTSE 250, down 0.2 percent, underperformed the FTSE 100 as the mid-cap index was hit by disappointing updates.

Poundland fell 3.5 percent after the discount retailer said first-quarter growth had slowed and first-half trading would be subdued.

Premier Farnell, a distributor of small electronics and parts, dropped 5.5 percent after saying first-half adjusted operating profit would be marginally below last year as it works to implement a new global structure.

While online gaming company Playtech said trading was strong, it fell 0.9 percent after saying it would raise 250 million pounds ($396.50 million) through a share placing.

Additional reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Mark Trevelyan