FTSE 100 continues festive rally

London's FTSE 100 Index returned today to the level seen before the collapse of Lehman Brothers as its festive rally continued unabated.

A gain of more than 30 points sent the Footsie above 5440 at one stage - a high not seen since US investment bank Lehman went into administration on September 15 2008, plunging global stock markets into turmoil.

Recent strong gains have helped the FTSE 100 regain dire losses suffered in the wake of the financial crisis, which at one stage left the blue chip index at a six-year low.

But since slumping to just above 3500 in March, the top tier has made a marked recovery as global economies have begun returning to growth.

London's top stocks are now on course for their fifth straight day of gains after a rally that began before the Christmas break and is showing no sign of abating amid cautious optimism for the year ahead.

It is the London market's first day of trading since the Christmas holidays, but a festive surge among other indices open for trading yesterday helped put UK stocks on the front foot.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street and Germany's Dax both hit fresh highs for the year.

Cameron Peacock, market analyst at IG Markets, said the rally reflected heightened volatility caused by low levels of trading and little in the way of corporate or economic news.

He added: "Volumes are expected to be relatively low with many taking an extended break into the New Year so this could add to overall levels of volatility.

"But at least for the time being, the market seems intent on remaining in a bullish mood as the decade draws to a close."

The FTSE 100 has risen more than 200 points in the last week, with gains today seen across a range of sectors.

Mining stocks were again among those leading the way, while property firms such as British Land and Segro made strong gains.

British Airways shares were also in the spotlight after the alleged bomb attack on a US plane on Christmas Day.

Shares in US airlines were down by as much as 4% overnight and BA was down almost 1% today.

Experts believe equities in general should hold firm in positive territory for the final trading days of 2009.

But there are mixed forecasts for the year ahead. Share Centre chief executive Gavin Oldham believes the looming general election and fall-out from ballooning public spending levels will hold progress back on the FTSE 100.

He predicts a 2010 year-end almost unchanged from this year's, at 5450.

Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers, is pencilling in a rosier year for UK stocks, with a prediction for a 2010 close at 6000.

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