Market update - 23 March

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The Independent Online

The FTSE 100 was 1.4 per cent or 54 points ahead at 3896.8 while the FTSE 250 advanced to 6336.8, up 1 per cent or 64.4 points, at around 11.30am. Sentiment was strong as investors awaited the details of the Obama administration’s bank rescue plan.

Moving up

The hopes for the US plan lifted British banks, with Barclays climbing to 11.5p, up 9.6 per cent or 10.1p, and Lloyds Banking Group gaining 6.1 per cent or 3.4p to 58.7p. Royal Bank of Scotland was also firmer, gaining 5.8 per cent or 1.4p to 25.4p. Standard Chartered, which has been downgraded to “in-line” from “outperform” at Cazenove, was 2.5 per cent or 23p heavier at 918p.

Legal & General was 4.4 per cent or 1.9p ahead at 44.7p. Traders increasingly anticipate a dividend cut with the life insurer’s full year results this Wednesday, as the company moves to preserve its capital buffers. KBW, which weighed in on the stock this morning, is forecasting a 30 per cent reduction in the payout, and, like MF Global, playing down the prospect of a rights issue.

Elsewhere, the mining sector advanced after reports of increased stockpiling by Chinese authorities sparked a rally in the price of copper and other industrial metals. Rio Tinto was the strongest of the lot, rising by 7.7 per cent or 157p to 2185p, while Anglo American gained 4.5 per cent or 59p to 1350p.

Moving down

There was little notable activity on the downside this morning, with a clutch of defensives like British American Tobacco, 18p weaker at 1567p, and GlaxoSmithKline, 6p weaker at 1008.5p, falling back as investors moved into financial issues.