Market update - 13 February

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The FTSE 100 was up 44.8 points at 4247.1 while the FTSE 250 gained 108.78 points to 6610.66 at around 12:20pm.

Reports of an American plan to halt the rising tide of foreclosures and mortgage defaults boosted sentiment across world markets, with London tracking overnight gains in US equities. Hopes for the move, which will reportedly see the US government subsidising monthly payments for distressed borrowers, had a direct read-across in the UK financial sector, which traded higher as investors looked forward to some resolution of the problems stemming from the troubled American housing market.

Barclays was amongst the strongest, jumping to 109.7p, up 4.48 per cent or 4.7p, while Lloyds Banking Group advanced to 94.1p, up 3.5 per cent or 3.2p.

HSBC was also firm, gaining over 3 per cent or 16.5p to 550p after Credit Suisse weighed in with a supportive note, telling clients that, contrary to recent market speculation, the lender could do without raising fresh funds.

“We continue to believe that HSBC can manage its capital position through cutting the dividend,” the broker said.

“We have re-performed our stress test based on [the] early 1990’s and Asian crisis impairment charges, 10 per cent further write downs on toxic assets and 15 per cent reduction in [corporate revenues]. We estimate that the equity tier 1 ratio [i.e., the bank’s capital cushion] would fall to 4.6 per cent at the end of 2010, but increases to 5.7 per cent if we assume no dividend is paid for 2 years (note we already forecast a 30 per cent dividend cut in 2009). We believe that this provides a sufficient buffer without having to raise further capital unless necessary for an acquisition.”

Moving up

London Stock Exchange climbed to 496p, up 5.5 per cent or 26p following confirmation that Xavier Rolet, the former head of Lehman Brothers in France, will take over when Dame Clara Furse vacates the chief executive’s chair later this year.

Also on the upside, Pennon climbed to 454p, up 18.7p or 4.3 per cent thanks to HSBC, which switched its stance on the stock to “overweight” from “neutral”.

Moving down

Sugar and sweetener maker Tate & Lyle was the weakest of the blue chips after Numis Securities reduced its target price for the stock to 240p from 330p.

“We cut our full year 2009, 2010 and 2011 [earnings per share forecasts] by 9 per cent, 23 per cent and 31 per cent respectively,” the broker said,

“This is almost exclusively driven by our negative assumption on TALFIIA [Tate & Lyle Food and Industrial Ingredients America] margins evolution and the increased cost base of the division as the new Fort Doge factory comes on stream.”