MORNING REPORT: Headline shares were firmly higher in early deals, with a flurry of largely positive blue chips earnings raising confidence, with Unilever the star turn, supported well by Shell.
In early trade, the FTSE100 was up 34.97 points at 5,753.86 with the FTSE250 ahead 44.5 points at 11,379 and the FTSE Smallcaps flat at 3,098.99.
US & ASIA
In the US last night, the Dow rose 89 points at 13,091, the Nasdaq Composite gained 68 points at 3,030 and the S&P500 added 19 points at 1,391.
In Asia today, the Nikkei closed little changed at 9,562, while the Hang Seng was recently ahead 164 points at 20,811.
Upbeat comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke overnight proved to be a catalyst for optimism this morning, while investors tried to absorb a flurry of blue chip earnings.
Barclays kicked off the bank reporting season with a forecast-beating rise in first-quarter adjusted pretax profits to just under £2.5bn. The group raised its PPI provision by a further £300m. Barclays shares gained 4.8p at 215.8p. Elsewhere, Lloyds added 0.835p at 31.33p and Royal Bank of Scotland edged up 0.3p at 23.52p.
Staying in the financial world, insurers were generally positive, with Old Mutual the best of them, up 1.9p at 149.6p. However, auto specialist Admiral sank 12p at 1,219p after an in-line trading update and a warning that UK policy growth would be at the lower end of forecasts.
Hedge fund manager Man Group added 1.33p at 96.53p as vague bid rumours persisted.
First quarter earnings at oil major Shell beat expectations, jumping to $7.279bn from $6.288bn in the prior year period. Shell shares advanced 64p at 2,253p on the news, while BP ticked up 4.85p at 437.15p and BG Group improved 26.5p at 1,438.5p on the read across.
Mining issues were mostly positive, with Randgold Resources the best of the sector, up 175p at 5,520p as the price of gold edged up.
Meanwhile, Anglo American rose 12.5p at 2,372.5p and Antofagasta added 10.5p at 1,211.5p.
Coffee-house to hotels group Whitbread rose 43p at 1,852p after full-year sales and profits beat expectations as the Costa coffee chain continued to grow.
Outsourcing firm Serco Group advanced 4.25p at 549.25p after S&P Equity Research, which has a strong buy rating on the stock, raised its target price to 671p from 587p.
However, household goods conglomerate Unilever topped the early leaderboard, jumping 80p at 2,159p, after reporting sales growth of 8.4% in Q1 and saying it was on target for the full-year.
On the downside with blue chips, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca was the worst performer on the main index, tumbling 84.75p at 2,756.25p as first-quarter profits slumped 38%, hit by competition from generics. The company also announced the departure of its CEO in June. Peer GlaxoSmithKline eased 11.25p at 1,402.25p.
Cigarette maker British American Tobacco slipped 7.5p at 3,141.5p after reporting increased revenues and volumes but warning currency headwinds have adversely affected results.
Aerospace engineering group Meggitt eased 0.5p at 405.5p, despite revealing pretax profit growth of 26% in the first quarter.
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