Shift in confidence at Charles Stanley

No one could accuse Sir David Howard, the chairman of the stockbroker Charles Stanley, of being over the top.

Sir David admitted that he looks to the coming year "with a touch more optimism than a year ago". But he warns: "Gravity can't be defied for ever. This continues to overhang the markets, with a continuing flow of worsening news about black holes in the banks, near to nil growth and public deficits which stubbornly refuse to come down."

The broker's pre-tax profit rose 8 per cent to £13.5m last year as funds under management gained 15 per cent to £17.7m. Sir David concluded: "So far, the new year uptick [in markets] is stronger than one might expect. There is a sense of things moving forward once again."

Shares in Charles Stanley jumped 11.5p to 397.625p.

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