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Sunday 30th of January 2011
January 27, 2011    

Old Mutual leads insurance sector higher in London

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by Elaine Frei
Old Mutual leads insurance sector higher in London

European equities markets were mostly higher Thursday after the US Federal Reserve said on Tuesday that it will continue to purchase Treasury bonds in order to help the US economy’s recovery, and despite a downgrade of Japan’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s.

London’s markets were mixed, moving little from yesterday’s close, as the FTSE 250 added 0.04 percent to 11,617.4 but the FTSE 100 dropped 0.07 percent to 5,965.08.

The four biggest gainers on the 100 were all from the insurance sector, led by Old Mutual (LSE: OML) with a gain of 4.55 percent, while Aviva (LSE: AV) was up 4.05 percent, Legal and General (LSE: LGEN) added 3.01 percent and Prudential (LSE: PRU) was 3 percent higher.

The biggest decline in the mixed insurance sector came from CPP Group (LSE: CPP), which dropped 5.21 percent.

The biggest gain on the 250 came from the energy sector, as Heritage Oil (LSE: HOIL) added 6.55 percent for the best result among energy companies, while the biggest decline in the energy sector came from wind turbine gearbox manufacturer Hansen Transmissions International (LSE: HSN) with a decline of 5.26 percent.

Clothing retailer Next (LSE: NXT) saw the biggest declines on the 100 as it fell 2.73 percent, while the biggest decliner in the sector was consumer electronics retailer Dixons Retail (LSE: DXNS), which was down 3.48 percent.

Department store operator Debenhams (LSE: DEB) was the best of five gainers in the retail sector as it added 2.49 percent.

Online gambler Betfair Group (LSE: BET) dropped the most on the 250 and in the travel and leisure sector, falling 6.85 percent, followed by a 4.29 percent decline for car rental group Avis Europe (LSE: AVE).

Pubs and restaurants operator Mitchells & Butlers (LSE: MAB) was the best performer in the travel and leisure sector, adding 4.14 percent on higher sales.

Most miners were higher as Hochschild Mining (LSE: HOC) added 4.67 percent to turn in the best performance in the sector, while gold miner Petropavlovsk (LSE: POG) was up 3.49 percent after it said its output will go up by 18 percent this year.

Xstrata (LSE: XTA) was the worst performer among miners, dropping 1.98 percent.

The FTSE Eurofirst 300 was up 0.19 percent to 1,154.92, while the CAC-40 added 0.26 percent to 4,059.57, the Dax was 0.4 percent higher to 7,155.58 and the IBEX gained 1.48 percent to 10,828.7.

Markets in the Asia-Pacific region were mixed.

The Nikkei 225 was up 0.74 percent to 10,478.7 in Tokyo, while the Topix index added 0.76 percent to 929.66 and the Mothers market gained 0.22 percent to 460.02, with gains coming despite the fact that Standard and Poor’s cut Japan’s credit rating to AA minus, citing deflation and the government’s lack of plans to address debt.

Markets there managed to maintain gains on hopes that more corporations will report higher earnings as the reporting season hits its peak next week.

Industrial robot manufacturer Fanuc (TYO: 6954) was up 4.6 percent on higher profits and sales the company said more than doubled.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (TYO: 7011), which makes construction machinery, added 4 percent on a media report that it could report that earnings could top predictions.

Oil companies were up on higher oil prices, with Inpex (TYO: 1605) up 2.7 percent, while commodities traders also saw gains.

In the banking sector, however, Resona Holdings (TYO: 8308) dropped 4.7 percent, to ¥426, below the share price it set recently for a new share sale.

Other gainers in the region included South Korea’s Kospi, which added 0.22 percent to 2,115.01, while the Taiex was up 0.52 percent to 9,102.33 in Taiwan and the Shanghai Composite gained 1.49 percent to 2,749.15.

The Straits Times Index was 0.03 percent lower to 3,219.83, while in Australia both the S&P/ASX200 and the Sydney Ordinaries dropped 0.04 percent, to 4,806.1 and 4,907 respectively, as markets returned to trade after a holiday yesterday.

The Hang Seng fell 0.27 percent to 23,779.6 in Hong Kong, while India’s Sensex was down 1.5 percent to 18,684.4.

New York markets were higher at just before 1 p.m. in New York as the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.16 percent to 12,004.4, the S&P 500 was up 0.19 percent to 1,299.05 and the Nasdaq Composite was 0.64 percent higher to 2,757.08.

Crude oil prices were lower in midday trade in New York, with West Texas Intermediate crude down $1.25 to $86.08 per barrel after the US Labor Department said that first-time jobless claims were up 51,000 to 454,000 last week in the United States and a separate report from the Commerce Department showed that US durable goods orders dropped 2.5 percent in December.

In metals markets, copper was up 6 cents in New York trade, but gold was down nearly $14 at just before 1 p.m. and silver prices were also lower.

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