Market Report: Gust of positivity pushes the oil sector higher


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The Independent Online

The oil industry’s weather vane continues to be buffeted this way and that, but yesterday a gust of positivity pushed the sector higher. After tumbling in the previous session, oil operators were boosted by news that the US oil rig count continues to slide, which could cut supply and support the price of the black stuff.

Expectations of tax breaks for North Sea operators in today’s Budget also provided a lift. And Merrill Lynch proclaimed, after some number-crunching, that the City has been overly pessimistic on the oil industry. Tullow Oil jumped 17.2p to 298.4p, British Gas owner Centrica climbed 11.9p at 251.2p, BG Group 18.3p to 840.3p and BP 8.3p to 425.9p.

On the mid-cap index Premier Oil rocketed 20.7p to 140.9p, scoring an extra boost from rumour mongers pushing theories of a private equity takeover. The company has fallen 15 per cent so far this year.

There was some genuine deal action for Dragon Oil, which was forced to confirm, after share price spikes, that it had been approached by Emirates National Oil Company about a possible takeover. Dragon closed 67p higher at 602p.

EasyJet soared 58p to 1,792p as Barclays said it thought the airline was set for a strong summer.

Antofagasta tumbled 20p to 687p as it admitted revenue fell 11.4 per cent last year and earnings fell 8.7 per cent to $602m. The Chilean copper miner blamed the poor performance on the collapsing price of its primary metal and increased costs. It also warned that ongoing legal battles and protests involving its Las Pelambres mine meant the outlook for the year ahead was uncertain.

The FTSE 100 rose 33.53 points to 6837.61.

Lonmin jumped 8.7p to 119.7p on the mid-cap index as Citi upgraded the platinum miner, arguing that Glencore’s recent offloading of its stake had undermined its share price.

Data software provider WANdisco tumbled 44p to 311p on AIM after losses more than doubled to $17.9m last year, from $7.8m in 2013. It blamed investment in new markets.

Oil and gas operator BowLeven jumped 2.25p to 33.5p on AIM.