Market Report: Admiral motors ahead after a 'baked potato' year

Admiral's chief executive, Henry Engelhardt, called last year a "baked potato" for the insurer but investors were keen to tuck in, sending the company straight to the top of the Footsie.

Cardiff-based Admiral revealed a 7 per cent rise in pre-tax profit to £370m, ahead of estimates, despite falling car insurance prices. With few other stand-out numbers about, investors piled into what Toby Morris at CMC Markets called "a comfort food set of results", sending Admiral 107p higher to 1,526p.

It has been a roller-coaster week for Randgold Resources. Panicked investors snapped up the Mexican-focused gold miner at the beginning of the week as Russia marched into Ukraine, but swiftly dumped it a day later when Randgold published disappointing annual results.

Yesterday the miner was back at the top of the table, up 169p to 5,050p, after an upgrade from Nomura. In a note on the gold market titled "A Phoenix Rising", the broker said it thinks the precious metal is entering a new three-year phase of rising prices.

It was a different story for the Australian miners Rio Tinto, down 112.5p to 3,269p, and BHP Billiton, off 44p at 1,883p, after news from their biggest customer, China. Premier Li Keqiang said the economy will this year move away from construction and towards consumer spending.

The turnaround specialist Melrose was the day's biggest faller, despite almost doubling profits last year. The company, off 25.5p at 302.4p, warned that "sales growth remains challenging".

Housebuilders were on the slide after Credit Suisse declared that any benefit from the current property boom was already priced in. Barratt Development dug down 8.2p to 443.6p, Bellway slid 29p to 1,660p, Persimmon was off 36p at 1,433p and Taylor Wimpey tumbled 3.5p to 121p.

The blue-chip index was more subdued after Tuesday's rally, with the FTSE 100 down 48.35 points at 6,775.42. On the mid-cap index, the telecoms and data service provider Colt Group, up 8.9p at 140.9p, was top of the table after BNP Paribas followed a number of other brokers in upgrading the firm.

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