Mid-caps steal the limelight as FTSE rises

Mid-caps steal the limelight as FTSE rises

London equities made further progress on Thursday as the London Stock Exchange intensified its attempt to fend off Nasdaq’s hostile bid and the mining sector tracked commodities prices higher.

The FTSE 100 opened 0.5 per cent higher at 6,237.5, a gain of 33 points, dominated by resurgent resource stocks. A flurry of newsflow from mid-cap stocks focused attention on the FTSE 250, up 0.2 per cent at 11,118.8.

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed overnight staying at 12,577.2. Elsewhere, the Bank of Japan surprised no-one as it kept interest rates on hold, leaving traders free to concentrate on domestic developments.

London’s second-tier index moved into the spotlight with a series of top -evel changes within Misys, fresh news from the high street and the latest developments in the battle to control the London Stock Exchange.

Shares in the LSE rose 0.7 per cent to £13.17 after the second round in its attempt to stave off Nasdaq’s hostile bid began with its latest defence document,. Among other measures, the company pledged to increase the value of its share buyback to £250m.

Misys, the health sector and insurance software specialist, announced far-reaching changes in its boardroom. Mike Lawrie, the group’s new chief executive, said the performance of its healthcare operations had been “unacceptable”. Misys shares responded with a 5.6 per cent rise to 239¾p.

Kesa Electricals, rose 2.6 per cent to 351¾p after the company behind the Comet retail chain reported a 7.3 per cent increase in sales over Christmas.

Weir Group, the mid-cap engineer, was 4.3 per cent stronger at 562½p after it said annual profits would reach the top of consensus forecasts.

On the downside, Hikma Pharmaceuticals fell 2.8 per cent despite forecasting full-year revenue growth of 20 per cent.

Higher up the market, firmer metals prices on commodities markets boosted mining stocks. Xstrata topped the FTSE leaderboard with a 2.4 per cent rise at £22.96, Vedanta made gains of 2.2 per cent at £28.01 and BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP) was 1.7 per cent stronger at 904.3p.

There were more gains for Pearson, owner of the Financial Times, on reports of bid interest from private equity house KKR. After a 3 per cent rise toward the end of the previous session, shares in the media group rose a further 1.9 per cent to 840p.

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