FTSE 100 logs one-month closing high, supported by ECB

LONDON Thu May 2, 2013 4:59pm BST

1 of 2. A trader works on the trading floor in London January 22, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

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LONDON (Reuters) - The FTSE 100 posted its highest close in a month on Thursday, supported by the European Central Bank delivering some widely expected stimulus and by reassuring earnings numbers from the energy sector.

The ECB, faced with weak economic data and low inflation, cut interest rates in the euro zone - Britain's top trading partner - in a move that pushed down bond yields and offered fresh support to stimulus-hungry equity markets.

"We will be leaning on monetary support from the central banks more and more, I suspect, as we continue through the year," said Paul Kavanagh, chairman of Killik Capital.

"Bond yields are hitting new lows and it's all telling you at the moment that this is not a (stimulus) programme that will end shortly ... I recommend adding to equity exposure at this level, I can see it surprising to the upside."

The FTSE 100 closed up 9.42 points, or 0.2 percent, at 6,460.71 points, its highest close in a month.

Stronger than expected U.S. weekly jobs data - which raised the likelihood of a firm reading from Friday's keenly watched non-farm payrolls report - also helped the British blue chips higher, as did some upbeat results.

Up to Thursday, 86 percent of the FTSE 100 companies who have reported first quarter earnings have beaten or met expectations, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine data.

Smith & Nephew, BG Group and Royal Dutch Shell all added to that list on Thursday.

Guardian Stockbrokers' director of trading Atif Latif, said Shell's headline numbers were strong, forecasting that the B shares could push back up to the 2013 high of 2,374 pence.

"I would expect this to materialise as the oil price gradually drifts higher and more projects come to fruition."

Although Thursday's crop of results included some disappointments, with pharmaceutical firm Shire down 6.7 percent after cutting its full-year sales forecast, Britain is generally looking firmer than the euro zone, where just 41 percent of firms have met or beaten expectations.

"A large majority of earnings come from outside the UK, so that is helping earnings and it's helped the performance of the stock market in general," said Frederique Carrier, head of European equities at RBC Wealth Management.

"The UK has an attractive yield and valuations are not expensive, so it attracts investors who are seeking yield."

Britain currently offers a dividend yield of 3.4 percent, beating Germany's 3.0 percent and the United States' 2.2 percent.

(Additional reporting by Tricia Wright)

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