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FTSE 100 struggles to make gains amid falling banking stocks


The FTSE 100 Index was 2.5 points higher at 6322.4

The FTSE 100 Index was 2.5 points higher at 6322.4

The FTSE 100 Index was 2.5 points higher at 6322.4

London's top-flight index recovered from early falls but struggled to make gains as a dismal performance from banking stocks weighed heavy on the market.

The FTSE 100 Index was 2.5 points higher at 6322.4, as it regained its poise from earlier in the session when European markets dived into the red as investors reacted to the Bank of Japan's decision to not pump fresh stimulus into the Japanese economy.

However, falling banking stocks dragged on the market after Lloyds reported sliding profits and the Royal Bank of Scotland warned of a "significantly" greater-than-expected hit from plans to spin-off its Williams & Glyn arm.

Across Europe, Germany's Dax was up 0.2%, while the Cac 40 in France was down 0.2%.

Commodity stocks were among the biggest risers, buoyed by the price of oil, which hit new highs for 2016 for the third day in a row, lifting 42 cents to 47.60 US dollars a barrel.

Mining giant Anglo American was up 8% or 56.3p to 753.2p, while BHP Billiton stepped up 19.5p to 945.7p.

The pound rose 0.4% against the dollar at 1.459, after the Federal Reserve's decision to keep interest rates on hold weakened the US currency.

Sterling was also 0.4% higher against the euro at 1.288.

In stocks, Lloyds fell nearly 2% as it insisted it delivered a "robust" performance in the first three months of the year despite posting falling profits.

The banking giant saw bottom-line profits nearly halve, down 46% to £654 million in the first quarter, as it was hit by charges from buying back expensive bonds from investors.

Profits fell 6% to £2.1 billion on an underlying basis, but it said that excluding the TSB business sold last year, profits were "stable" on a year earlier.

Shares were down 1.1p to 68.1p, while Barclays also fell 0.4p to 174.4p as the bank told shareholders at its annual general meeting that it was working towards "achieving a significantly improved 2017 financial outcome".

The Royal Bank of Scotland was 7.3p lower at 244.8p as it revealed there was a "significant risk" that it would not meet the deadline to separate the 316-branch Williams & Glyn business by the end of 2017.

The group, which posts first quarter figures on Friday, said it is now looking at other ways to spin-off the business, adding the "overall financial impact on RBS is now likely to be significantly greater than previously estimated" due to complexities of separating the business.

Advertising giant WPP was 12p higher at 1628p as it revealed better-than-expected trading and cheered this year's sporting events as a "bonus" in the face of Brexit fears.

The group saw like-for-like net sales rise by 3.2% in the first three months of the year, beating its 3% target, while it said its performance across the board was "well ahead of budget".

Its first quarter performance was helped by a 6.9% surge in US comparable revenues to £1.2 billion, while the UK saw a 4.7% rise to £451 million.

It said the UK growth was weaker than a year earlier, but "well ahead" of the overall level seen in the fourth quarter and second half of 2015.

The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Anglo American up 56.3p to 753.2p, Rio Tinto up 95.5p to 2329.5p, Rolls-Royce up 21p to 694p, Rangold Resources up 145p to 6525p.

The biggest fallers were Legal & General down 10.5p to 227.2p, ITV down 8.2p to 225.6p, St James's Place down 27p to 881p, Royal Bank of Scotland down 7.3p to 244.8p.