EUROPEAN markets shook off worries over the inconclusive Italian election result today with the help of better news on the American economy.
The FTSE 100 Index recouped a large chunk of the losses seen during the previous session to close 55.4 points higher at 6325.9.
While traders warned that fears of more eurozone turmoil due to the latest Italian political crisis had not gone away, there was encouragement in better-than-expected pending new home sales data in the US.
The pound, which has endured a volatile week following the downgrade of the AAA credit rating by Moody’s, steadied today with sterling flat against the US dollar at 1.51 and marginally lower versus the euro at 1.15.
However, gold prices have benefited from the latest eurozone uncertainty, with the traditional safe haven rebounding from a recent seven month low to stand at more than $1,600 an ounce.
In a busy session for corporate results, broadcaster ITV failed to extend recent gains after posting a 17% rise in full-year profits and a special dividend payment worth £156m.
Shares have risen to a five-year high in recent weeks but investors took the opportunity to lock in profits, even though chief executive Adam Crozier hailed the ongoing success of the company’s five-year turnaround programme. However as he also poured cold water on recent takeover speculation, the stock slipped 1.2p to 119p.
British Gas owner Centrica declined 1.3p to 347.8p after a 14% rise in full-year operating profits to £2.7bn met City expectations. The company, which drew flak for revealing a £606m profits haul from its residential arm months after hiking customer tariffs, also announced plans to expand its operations in North America.
The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Weir up 158p at 2322p, Melrose Industries ahead 9.9p at 260p, Prudential up 30.5p at 973p and Fresnillo ahead 35p at 1550p.
The biggest fallers were Petrofac down 100p at 1497p, Intu Properties off 9p at 333.9p, Eurasian Natural Resources down 9.2p at 347p and Croda International off 29p at 2555p.