FTSE falls short of hitting new highs

US markets have helped to enliven equities over the afternoon session.

Early trading in the European markets was de-railed as Germany posted disappointing retail sales figures. This negativity was quickly dispelled by the news that EU unemployment figures had bucked the last two years’ trends and fallen to 12.1%. Although EU youth unemployment rose to 39%, bolstered by a solid US session the FTSE 100 has added to its morning gains. However, it did not quite manage to hang onto the highs of the day, and peaked just short of the inter-day highs set last week. All in all this has still been an encouraging day.

There was plenty of corporate news to guide the FTSE, with Centrica feeling the benefits of its British Gas division and posting excellent profits. Fresh from one of the worst winters the UK has seen in several decades, sales for the energy supplier rocketed as Brits tried to stave off the cold. Drinks manufacturer Diageo also saw some impressive figures, as its spirits sold in record quantities and outstripped sales of beer. To go with the alcohol, cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco also posted a 4% jump in profits, although this was mainly derived from growth in the emerging markets.

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