FTSE 100 nears record high

Drop in HSBC’s annual profits dashed hopes of a record-breaking session

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The Independent Online

The FTSE 100 Index neared an all-time high today as investors cheered a deal extending Greece's rescue package for another four months.

London's blue-chip index rose 0.4 per cent in early deals to hit a new 15 year high of 6,943.61, just 0.1 per cent shy of the record high of 6950.6 set in December 1999.

However, a sharp drop in HSBC’s annual profits dashed hopes of a record-breaking session and the FTSE 100 later fell back. The disappointment left the index below its record close of 6930 seen in December 1999.

HSBC today announced a 17 per cent fall – as it continues to deal with allegations that it helped clients at its Swiss subsidiary conceal millions of pounds in tax. The bank reported a pre-tax profit of $18.7 billion for 2014, down from $22.6 billion the year before and below the average analyst forecast of $21 billion, after costs rose more than expected and its investment bank had a disappointing fourth quarter.

The FTSE 100 has trailed behind Wall Street in setting a new record high, but investors were helped towards the threshold in London by relief that Greece has pulled back from the brink of tumbling out of the euro.

Further progress also depends on a list of reforms due to be submitted today by Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis.

CMC's chief market analyst Michael Hewson said: "While markets will no doubt greet Friday's events with relief, anyone thinking that this is the end of the matter had better think again.

"The fear of a Greek exit has been avoided for now, but it is by no means off the table, and to all intents and purposes nothing much has changed, in Greece, or anywhere else for that matter."

Additional reporting by agencies