Belfast Telegraph

FTSE improves as oil prices continue to rally

Rallying oil prices helped commodity stocks soar, despite Brexit fears forcing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to slash its forecast for UK economic growth.

The cost of crude lifted another 4.1% to more than 44 US dollars a barrel, with miner Anglo American leading the charge in the commodities sector.

The FTSE 100 Index was up 42.3 points to 6242.4, as miners Glencore and BHP Billiton remained near the top of the pack, with a 5% and 4% rise respectively.

Across Europe, Germany's Dax was up 0.8%, while the Cac 40 in France up 0.7%.

Sterling rallied higher earlier in the session after official figures showed UK inflation hitting a 15-month high in March as the rising cost of clothes and air fares pushed up the cost of living.

The Office for National Statistics said Consumer Prices Index inflation rose by 0.5% last month, up from 0.3% in February.

But the pound's rise against the dollar was tempered after the IMF warned that Brexit could inflict ''severe regional and global damage'' by disrupting trade relations.

The IMF scaled back its projection of UK economic growth for 2016 by 0.3 percentage points to 1.9% - marginally below the 2% forecast of the Government's Office for Budget Responsibility - but held its forecast for 2017 at 2.2%.

The pound was up 0.1% against the dollar at 1.42, while the pound also rose 0.2% against the euro at 1.25.

Among stocks, Anglo was the biggest riser, ahead 9% or 53.6p to 638.7p as it said it was being given a fillip by rough diamond sales for its De Beers business.

But Whitbread was among the worst blue chip performers after announcing Costa Coffee boss Christopher Rogers was leaving after nearly four years in the role.

He will be replaced by Dominic Paul as managing director of the coffee chain, who joins from Royal Caribbean International, where he has been senior vice president international since November 2013.

Shares in Whitbread sank 2 % or 90p to 3742p.

Housebuilders remained in the red after falling yesterday on growing gloom over the UK economy and a slowdown in London's high-end property market.

Charles Church owner Persimmon was 35p lower at 1960p, while Taylor Wimpey dropped 2.2p to 177.6p.

Tesco was in the red as it announced another sale of an unwanted asset ahead of its full-year results on Wednesday.

It offloaded its 8.6% stake in e-commerce site Lazada to Chinese giant Alibaba for 129 million US dollars (£90 million).

Away from the top tier, shares in Michael Page stepped up after the recruitment firm said it had bolstered profits in face of tough market conditions.

The FTSE 250 company said group gross profits picked up 3.6% to £142.4 million in the first quarter despite its UK business facing uncertainty surrounding Britain's referendum on the European Union.

Shares rose 1.7p to 418.5p.

Online fast fashion firm ASOS was 8% higher, up 300p to 3703p after posting an 18% hike in half-year profits to £21.2 million.

The group hailed a "good start" to its financial year after a bumper festive season helped send UK sales up by a quarter, although the results also showed another £2.7 million losses for its failed Chinese venture, which it said it would pull the plug on last week.

The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Anglo American up 53.6p to 638.7p, Standard Chartered up 22.75p to 470.7p, Glencore up 7.1p to 148.6p, BHP BIlliton up 30.4p to 808.6p.

The biggest fallers were Ashtead Group down 25p to 817p, Whitbread down 90p to 3742p, Persimmon down 35p to 1960p, Sainsbury down 5.1p to 285.8p.