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01 Apr, 2008

The new financial quarter got off to a bright start as banking sectors brushed aside the latest writedowns and cash injections from UBS, Deutsche Bank and Lehman Bros on the hope that the end of the credit crisis is at last in sight.

By 10am the FTSE 100 index was up 44 points at 5,746 and the Mid-250 index 130 points to the good at 10,143.

In Europe the German DAX reversed an early modest fall to trade 87 points higher.

On the economic front the UK's manufacturing sector saw steady growth in March. but price pressures rose sharply.

Bank and financial sectors were well up among the top gainers with Alliance & Leicester at 540p, HBOS 579p, Barclays 474p, and Lloyds TSB 466p between 15p and 23p firmer.

Brighter insurances had Prudential at 682p and Aviva 633p around 15p better while Friends Provident added 3.9p to 127.5p amid hopes that the insurer would bow to pressure and enter discussions with prospective predator JC Flowers. Collins Stewart has a speculative buy rating on Friends.

Elsewhere recent positive trial news on its Crestor cholesterol drug boosted AstraZeneca 108p to £19.92 and British Airways recovered 5p to 239p on hopes the Terminal 5 problems will soon be solved.

Falling commodity prices overshadowed oil and mining sectors where Lonmin fell 107p to £29.64p and Royal Dutch Shell 12p to £16.84, but Cairn Energy gained 49p to £28.83 on further consideration of yesterday's Indian reserves update.

A Deutsche Bank rating upgrade lifted Unilever 52p to £17.51 and other prominent firm spots included BAT at £19.22, Diageo £10.38, 3i Group 858p, Next £11.80 and Tesco 385p, between 6p and 29p higher.

National Grid rose 18p to 709p following the sale of its Ravenswood generating station for £1.5 billion.

Favourable trading statements benefited Vanco at 81.5p, First Property Group 19p, RCG Holdings 73.5p,  Immunodiagnostic Systems 184.5p, AG Barr £12.10, Babcock International 580p and  Lincat 585p, up 5p to 55p and acquisition news benefited Carpetright, 14p firmer at 776p.  

Autonomy advanced 59p to 974p on news it has been selected preferred partner for enterprise search and high-end information processing by Logica and Brit Insurance was a good market at 258.5p, up 16.25p.

Afren added 7.5p to 131p following a farm-in deal with Oriental Energy for the Ebok field offshore Nigeria, but Roc Oil dipped 14p to 90.5p as its Dunsborough-2 test drill drill results showed that oil may be non producible.

Churchill China tumbled 35p to 240p after a profits alert

So far share prices are taking the latest writedowns and cash injections from UBS, Deutsche Bank and Lehman Bros quite calmly.

By 8.30am the FTSE 100 index was up 14 points at 5,713 and the Mid-250 index 77 points higher at 10,088.

In Europe both the German DAX and CAC-40 in France opened around 17 points easier.

Banks made good progress amid hopes that the credit crunch is at last nearing its end with Alliance & Leicester at 537p, Barclays 475p, HBOS 572p and Royal Bank of Scotland 348p between 10p and 23p higher.

London Stock Exchange at £12.60 recovered 52p of yesterday's fall on US competition concerns, while firmer insurances had Friends Provident up another 2.1p to 125.7p amid growing pressure to talk to prospective bidder JC Flowers.

Retailers returned to prominence under the lead of Next, 23p better at £11.63 and properties also did well with Land Securities up 21p to £15.30 following the non-executive board appointments of Sir Christopher Bland and Rick Haythornthwaite.

Oils slipped with the crude price, but mining stocks attracted selective support with VedantasResources up 33p to £534p

Positive broker comment lifted Unilever 35p to £17.34 and other best top 100 performers included Kingfisher at 135.4p, BT Group 221.25p and AstraZeneca £19.15, between 3p and 31p up.

Among the smaller caps Vanco stood out at 79.25p, up 9.5p and Invensys at 235p, up 10p following a positive trading updates and GCap Media advanced 18.75p to 215p on agreeing the 225p-a-share cash offer from Global Radio,

A profits warning knocked 20p from Churchill China at 255p and Land of Leather fell 7.5p to 46.5p as its Concession Sleep depot went into administration


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