GlaxoSmithKline profits provide shot in arm for FTSE 100
London's top flight index was given a shot in the arm from drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline after it drove home a better-than-expected jump in profits and sales.
The FTSE 100 Index was 35.4 points higher at 6319.9, as Britain's biggest drugs company booked a 19% rise in core operating profit to £1.56 billion for the first quarter, as sales also stepped up 11% to £6.23 billion.
The uplift was underpinned by a strong performance from new product sales, rising 20% quarter on quarter to £821 million, driven in part by HIV drugs Tivicay and Triumeq.
However, it was mixed day on the market for banking stocks, as Barclays made marginal gains despite profits tumbling by a quarter in the first three months of the year, while Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC saw their share price come under pressure.
Commodity stocks were given a lift as Brent crude temporarily hit a high for 2016 at 46.77 US dollars a barrel amid reports by the American Petroleum Institute that US stock piles of crude had declined.
Oil major Royal Dutch Shell lifted 47p to 1816p despite the price of oil slipping in later trading to 46.15 US dollars a barrel.
The pound was down 0.2% against the dollar at 1.455, as t he UK economy slowed in the first quarter of this year following a slump in the manufacturing and construction industries.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.4% in the first three months of 2016, down from 0.6% in the fourth quarter of last year.
Sterling also fell 0.4% against the euro at 1.285.
In stocks, GlaxoSmithKline climbed 30p to 1488.5p as total pharmaceutical sales rose 5% to £3.59 billion in the first quarter, while vaccines climbed 14% to £882 million and consumer healthcare picked up 4% to £1.76 billion.
Chief executive Sir Andrew Witty said its performance underscored the "momentum" the firm was making thanks to rising sales of new products and "effective cost control".
Barclays was up 0.9p to 174.8p as it posted first quarter pre-tax profits of £793 million, down from £1.1 billion a year earlier as underlying profits in its corporate and investment banking business dropped 31%.
Barclays also announced talks with AnaCap Financial Partners to sell its 74-branch business in France as boss Jes Staley continues to overhaul the lender.
The group insisted its core business put in a resilient performance, with profits up 18% to £1.6 billion, but said this was dragged lower by loss-making parts of the business.
Other banks were seeing contrasting fortunes, with Standard Chartered giving back some of yesterday's gains after its first quarter update, down 1%, or 6.4p, to 565p.
Lloyds, which reports its figures tomorrow, sunk 0.8p to 69.3p, while HSBC was down 2.8p to 466.6p.
Away from the top tier, Argos owner Home Retail Group was 0.3p higher at 170.5p in the FTSE 250 Index after it reported a full year pre-tax loss of £804 million after being hit with an £852 million exceptional goodwill impairment charge relating to the Sainsbury's takeover of the high street retailer.
Stripping out the charge, annual operating profit slumped 28% to £94.7 million and sales across the group were down 1% to £5.6 billion.
The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 Index were Anglo American, up 29.7p to 696.9p, WorldPay, up 11.1p to 169.4p, IAG, up 19.5p to 555p, easyJet, up 52p to 1513p.
The biggest fallers were Tesco, down 8.7p to 174.8p, Prudential, down 24.5p to 1385p, Sky, down 12.5p to 953p, and Legal and General, down 3p to 237.7p.