LONDON (ShareCast) – – Chinese lending, Italy drive FTSE higher
– Japanese GDP disappoints
– UK house prices accelerate
– Hammerson (Other OTC: HMSNF – news) and RSA lead risers

techMARK 2,850.83 +0.67%
FTSE 100 6,729.06 +0.98%
FTSE 250 16,193.48 +0.51%

The FTSE rose strongly this morning, driven by Chinese lending data, political events in Italy, and hopes for a turnaround by RSA Insurance (LSE: RSA.L – news) .

Chinese lending data out overnight from the People’s Bank of China revealed borrowing for January was above expectations. Loans for the four-week period leapt to 1.32trn yuan from 482.5bn yuan in December and 1.07bn in the same period a year earlier, indicating that borrowing hasn’t been affected by fears over credit expansion.

However, elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s economy grew less than expected in the final three months of 2013, with gross domestic product up an annualised 1%, below expectations of 2.8%.

Traders have also welcomed the departure of Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta last week. Letta fell on his sword after his party backed calls for a new administration, with Matteo Renzi, who has this morning been asked to form a new government, saying a change was needed to end the “uncertainty” and lack of action over the country’s economic situation.

In celebration of Presidents’ Day, both US stock and bond markets will be closed today.

UK house prices accelerate further in February

UK house prices rose in February as demand continued to outpace supply, according to estate agency Rightmove (LSE: RMV.L – news) today.

The average asking prices of homes was £251.964 this month, up 3.3% on January and the strongest monthly increase since October 2012. On the year prices were up 6.9% from February, the sharpest gain since November 2007. In January prices rose 1% on the month and by 6.3% year-on-year.

In other news, Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development has predicted that employment will slow down during the next few months, with just 54% of firms planning to increase their employee numbers, compared to 65% a year earlier, while one in five is planning to axe jobs.

Hammerson climbs after posting profit rise

Hammerson moved into the top spot by lunchtime, after it this morning reported a rise in annual profits, driven by strong demand for retail property. The property group posted pre-tax profit for the year ended December 31st 2013 of£341.2m, up from £142.2m the previous year, as like-for-like net rental income climbed 2.1% to £282.8m.

During the period the group secured £24m of new rents, compared to £19m in 2012. The firm achieved occupancy of 97.7%, exceeding the benchmark of 97%. The final dividend was raised 8% to 10.8p per share.

Hot on its heels was RSA Insurance, following a report out over the weekend from the Financial Times that said the company is set to raise up to £350m in an emergency share sale that would avoid a rights issue. The group’s shares have suffered since it was revealed accounting problems in Ireland (Other OTC: IRLD – news) had resulted in a huge hole in its balance sheet.

IMI (Frankfurt: IMI.F – news) shares climbed following the company’s confirmation of a share capital consolidation taking place today.

Meanwhile, Aberdeen Asset Management (Other OTC: ABDNF – news) shares declined following Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS-PB – news) ‘s decision to reduce its target price from 600p to 540p.

William Hill (Other OTC: WIMHF – news) declined after it was widely reported the betting group plans to find a new Chief Executive to replace Ralph Topping a year early. Headhunter Zygos has been appointed to find a new external candidate for the job, according to The Times.

Tate&Lyle continued to decline after it last week warned on full-year profits as its Splenda prices weakened.

In unlisted company news, well-known publication Reader’s Digest has been acquired by Mike Luckwell for a nominal sum. The multi-millionaire revealed he plans to strengthen the company by focusing on the over-50s market.

The Co-Operative Group has called on the public to help decide the future of the scandal-hit mutual, as it admitted it has ‘lost touch’ with its customers in recent years. The survey is being conducted to allow customers and workers to “Have Your Say” on the future direction of the 150-year-old company, which will influence the outcome of its strategic review, which is due to be announced in May.

FTSE 100 – Risers
Hammerson (HMSO) 568.00p +4.51%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 98.60p +2.87%
IMI (IMI) 1,534.00p +2.70%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,875.00p +2.12%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 1,065.00p +2.01%
British Land Co (BLND) 676.50p +1.81%
Anglo American (LSE: AAL.L – news) (AAL) 1,546.50p +1.78%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,409.00p +1.73%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 221.95p +1.63%
BT Group (LSE: BT-A.L – news) (BT.A) 402.80p +1.59%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 397.70p -0.92%
SSE (Berlin: SCT.BE – news) (SSE (LSE: SSE.L – news) ) 1,381.00p -0.58%
William Hill (WMH) 345.10p -0.58%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 443.90p -0.56%
Sainsbury (Berlin: SUY1.BE – news) (J) (SBRY) 343.60p -0.46%
Sports Direct International (Other OTC: SDISY – news) (SPD) 716.50p -0.35%
Centrica (Frankfurt: CENB.F – news) (CNA (SES: E2:5GC.SI – news) ) 317.30p -0.28%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,549.00p -0.26%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,023.00p -0.20%
Tate & Lyle (LSE: TATE.L – news) (TATE) 657.00p -0.08%

FTSE 250 – Risers
DCC (Dusseldorf: DCC.DU – news) (DCC (LSE: DCC.L – news) ) 2,918.00p +4.78%
Polymetal International (POLY) 683.50p +3.95%
Telecom Plus (LSE: TEP.L – news) (TEP) 1,874.00p +3.48%
Essar Energy (LSE: ESSR.L – news) (ESSR) 68.00p +3.03%
Ted Baker (LSE: TED.L – news) (TED) 2,225.00p +2.82%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 2,678.00p +2.45%
Dixons Retail (Other OTC: DSITF – news) (DXNS) 48.14p +2.36%
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 859.50p +2.32%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 182.90p +2.18%
Ferrexpo (Frankfurt: FEX.F – news) (FXPO) 173.70p +2.12%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
JD Sports Fashion (LSE: JD.L – news) (JD.) 1,367.00p -2.84%
NMC Health (LSE: NMC.L – news) (NMC) 460.30p -2.27%
Daejan Holdings (LSE: DJAN.L – news) (DJAN) 4,938.00p -2.22%
Rotork (Frankfurt: RO4.F – news) (ROR) 2,635.00p -1.46%
CSR (Frankfurt: GQY.F – news) (CSR (LSE: CSR.L – news) ) 673.00p -1.39%
Rightmove (Frankfurt: 3JD.F – news) (RMV) 2,683.00p -1.25%
Serco Group (Other OTC: SECCF – news) (SRP) 394.90p -1.20%
KCOM Group (LSE: KCOM.L – news) (KCOM) 99.40p -1.09%
Xaar (XAR) 1,062.00p -1.03%
Riverstone Energy Limited (RSE) 901.50p -0.93%