Energy and miners power FTSE up

By Simon Falush

LONDON (Reuters) - Strength in energy and mining stocks, buoyed by firm commodity prices, outweighed falls in banks early on Wednesday, as the FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index gained 0.3 percent.

By 9:03 a.m. the FTSE 100 was up 12.03 points at 4,494.28 after closing 0.8 percent higher at 4,482.25 on Tuesday. The index is up 1.3 percent on the year and has rallied almost 30 percent since its trough set on March 9.

But moves on Wednesday were muted and analysts questioned how durable the current strength of share markets is.

"Inevitably we're getting to the stage after the rally there's been that investors will question its sustainability given the questions that hang over corporate profitability and the improvement in economic data," said Henk Potts, strategist at Barclays Wealth.

Lloyds Banking Group <LLOY.L> fell 0.3 percent from its adjusted price after the right to take part in a 4 billion pound fund raising and buy more shares at a substantial discount expired on Tuesday.

Lloyds shares closed on Tuesday at 100.3 pence, which was adjusted to 76.6 pence to account for the share offer entitlement.

Other banks were also weaker. HSBC <HSBA.L>, Standard Chartered <STAN.L>, Barclays <BARC.L> fell 0.4 to 1.5 percent.

Commodity stocks gained, tracking firmer metal and crude prices.

Energy stocks BP <BP.L>, Royal Dutch Shell <RDSa.L>, BG Group <BG.L>, Tullow Oil <TLW.L> and Cairn Energy <CNE.L> added 0.5-1.7 percent.

Rio Tinto <RIO.L>, Kazakhmys <KAZ.L>, Eurasian Natural Resources <ENRC.L> and Lonmin <LMI.L> climbed between 1.4 and 5.3 percent.

Experian <EXPN.L> rose 2 percent after the credit information firm reported an 8 percent increase in full-year operating profit, beating market expectations.

Retailers slid, adding to the previous session's losses after high street chain Marks & Spencer <MKS.L> reported a 40 percent slide in full-year profits, denting sentiment on prospects for consumer focussed stocks.

Marks & Spencer fell a further 0.2 percent adding to Tuesday's 8 percent fall and Sainsbury <SBRY.L> and Home Retail <HOME.L> fell 2.5 and 1.6 percent respectively.

Man Group <EMG.L> added 2.4 percent after sources familiar with the matter said the world's largest listed hedge fund firm is likely to extend the independent valuation of its flagship AHL strategy to calm investors spooked by Madoff.

Data showing the worst ever contraction in Japan's economy in the first quarter limited the rise on Japan's Nikkei 225 <.N225> on Wednesday.

Japan's economy shrank a record 4.0 percent in the first quarter as domestic demand and investment buckled, threatening to crush any export-led rebound later this year.

The data did add to growing evidence that global trade may have bottomed out in the first quarter. Net exports proved to be less of a drag on the world's second-largest economy than in the previous three months, and companies ran down inventories.

Chancellor Alistair Darling told the Times newspaper that Britain is set to resume growth by the end of 2009 and the government does not plan to alter its economic forecasts.

Confederation of British Industry Industrial Trends data is due at 11:00 a.m., a further indicator of how much of a toll the recession is taking on manufacturing.

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

Article Published: 20/05/2009