London escapes shares fallout

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The Independent Online

Investors in London held their nerve today in the face of international fears over North Korea's first nuclear weapons test.

Stock markets across Asia fell sharply after the test, which was condemned by leaders around the world. Shares were also down in continental Europe,

But the UK bucked the trend as the FTSE 100 Index lifted 16.1 points to 6017.3.

The rise was in stark contrast to heavy losses in South Korea, where the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (Kospi) fell by as much as 3.6 per cent after news of the test spread across the border.

It recovered slightly in later trading, but still closed 2.4 per cent lower while the Hang Seng in Honk Kong lost more than 1 per cent of its value. The key market in the region, the Nikkei in Japan, was closed for a public holiday.

Traders expected the London market to open lower today as investors shifted money away from stocks towards gold, which is usually seen as a safe option at times of global and political unrest.

However, the Footsie was given a much-needed boost by pharmaceuticals firm Shire, which has gained conditional approval from US regulators to market its new hyperactivity drug NRP104. It sent shares in the company 9 per cent higher, up 74p to 951p.

Other notable risers were steel firm Corus, which attracted takeover interest from Indian rival Tata Steel last week, and beleaguered Party Poker owner PartyGaming which made small gains following massive falls last week after anti-gaming legislation in the United States.

And with oil prices rising back above 60 dollars a barrel, heavyweight producers BP and Royal Dutch Shell added further momentum to the market.