Dow boosts FTSE

Wall Street optimism and strong results from blue-chips have helped the London market drive forward.

The FTSE took the lead from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which broke through the 13,000 barrier, to pass through the 6,500 barrier in the morning session, lifting 48 points to 6509.9 by lunchtime.

Fund manager Amvescap led the risers - up nearly 4%, or 23p, to 600p as the firm unveiled a 27% increase in first-quarter operating profits. Household cleaning goods firm Reckitt Benckiser was ahead 96p to 2724p after the Vanish and Finish maker upped its sales forecasts on the back of a strong start to the year.

Pharmaceuticals firm Shire, which posted stronger than expected figures on Wednesday, made further advances after a broker upgrade and saw shares up 25p to 1186p Other risers included Chilean mining firm Antofagasta, up 12.25p to 542.25p, while firms with exposure to the US benefited from the sight of the pound falling back below the two US dollars mark.

Risers also included GlaxoSmithKline, which lifted 14p to 1478p, while Plumb Center operator Wolseley cheered 15p to 1220p. The positive sentiment meant only a handful of blue-chip stocks were in the red, with the shortened list including the high-profile stocks of Royal Bank of Scotland and supermarket chain Sainsbury's.

The fall for RBS came after the banking group received clearance to carry out due diligence on takeover target ABN Amro. With investors nervous over the prospect of a costly bidding war with Barclays, shares fell 8p to 1986p.

RBS was followed lower by Sainsbury's as shares lost some of their strength following a gain of 7% on Wednesday. The stock had surged after a major chunk of shares changed hands, fuelling expectations that the company's retail operations could be split from the property side.

Sainsbury's was 1p lower at 567p.

Outside the top flight, shares in recently-listed Sports Direct International continued to struggle after a trading statement. With the update short on detail, analysts took the opportunity to scale back profits estimates and shares plunged more than 6% lower, down 15.75p at 220.5p.

Rival chain John David Group was also suffering, even though it said like-for-like sales raced ahead 7.5% in the first 12 weeks of its financial year. Analysts took heed of a warning that the performance was unlikely to be repeated over the rest of the year, leaving shares 12.25p lower at 475.5p.

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