LONDON (Reuters) - UK equities rallied on Friday as better than expected employment figures in the United States, the world’s biggest economy, spurred buying of commodity stocks and banks.
The U.S. jobless rate unexpectedly tumbled to 7.8 percent, the lowest rate in almost four years, from more than 8 percent previously, the non-farm payrolls data showed.
London’s blue chip index closed up 43.24 points, or 0.7 percent, at 5871.02.
“To see the rate of unemployment fall so much was a big surprise,” said Oliver Wallin, investment director at Octopus Investment.
“The U.S. is doing its bit towards global growth. Any kind of recovery story is going to be well received ... There are encouraging signs and there is definitely a more positive mood. But there is still plenty to be concerned about.”
Indeed, the positive impetus from the data was not sufficient to push the FTSE 100 out of the 200-point range established since markets peaked in early September after a summer rally fueled by central bank stimulus.
Investors warned longer term the uptick in U.S. employment could be a negative for the market in the longer term, if it leads to a curtailment of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing stimulus programme.
“This could dampen the QE3 programme ... if the trend continues, it may not be so good for markets if they start to see that fiscal stimulus is withdrawn,” Wallin said.
For the time being investors turned to stocks that tend to move further than the benchmark and are thus best to own in a strong bull market and worst to own in a bear market - such as banks.
London-listed miners also rose, with a sector index up 1 percent. Mining stocks have underperformed in 2012, down 7.6 percent compared with a 4.6 percent rise for the FTSE 100, hampered by growth concerns and doubts over demand for raw materials, so the data from the U.S. was a positive signal in the short-term for the sector.
Integrated oils, which have also lagged this year, climbed 0.5 percent as the oil price continued to recover.
Oil services firm John Wood Group added 2.8 percent after the company said it was confident of meeting full-year expectations in a trading update.
On the downside, defence firm BAE Systems fell 1.6 percent after German newspaper Spiegel reported online that its merger with French peers EADS had hit the buffers.
EADS quickly denied the report that its proposed $45 billion merger deal with BAE Systems had collapsed.
Retailers took a knock with Tesco, down 0.8 percent and the top faller on the index. Analysts have been cutting their forecasts on Britain’s biggest retailer following poor first-half results on Wednesday.
That underscored the risks for the market ahead of the third quarter earnings season.
“We see this rally as an opportunity to go defensive and start cutting long positions and start taking a view that we are close to the top end of this recent rally,” Atif Latif, director of trading equities and derivatives at Guardian Stockbroker said.
Editing by Hugh Lawson