LONDON (ShareCast) – – FTSE closes up 15 points at 6,557
– Feb UK public sector borrowing slightly ahead of forecasts
– Eurozone consumer confidence higher than expected

techMARK 2,790.85 -0.34%
FTSE 100 6,557.17 +0.23%
FTSE 250 16,160.11 -0.35%

The City ended the week on a positive note, with mining stocks providing a lift and confidence in the Eurozone coming in ahead of predictions.

The FTSE 100 closed up 14.73 points at 6,557.17, a gain of 29.28, or 0.45%, on the week.

Sentiment was also helped after Fitch Ratings raised its outlook on the US credit rating to ‘stable’ from ‘negative’ after Congress suspended the nation’s debt limit for more than a year, which reduces the risk of a default.

Despite the gains, developments in Ukraine were being closely watched today as Vladimir Putin signed a bill to incorporate Crimea into Russia. The move comes after European Union (EU) and US leaders imposed more sanctions on Russian officials yesterday.

President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he would extend financial sanctions to more of Vladimir Putin’s ‘inner circle’, including wealthy supporters and a bank close to the Kremlin (Berlin: KMLK.BE – news) .

The new sanctions prompted ratings agency Standard & Poor’s to revise its outlook on Russian debt from ‘stable’ to ‘negative’ due to “rising geopolitical and economic risks”.

UK public sector borrowing slightly ahead of forecasts in February

The UK public sector’s net borrowing requirement excluding the temporary effects of financial interventions (PSNB ex) for February came in at £9.3bn, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

That was the result of a current budget deficit of £6.5bn together with £2.8bn in net investment. The consensus estimate was for PSNB ex to come in at £8.9bn.

Eurozone consumer confidence rises more than forecast

Across the Channel, Eurozone consumer confidence rose more than expected in March, the European Commission reported.

The flash estimate for Eurozone sentiment climbed to -9.3 from -12.7 in February, surprising analyst who had forecast an increase to -12.4 in March.

Miners jump following recent declines

Mining (LSE: MIR.L – news) stocks were performing well throughout today’s session as bargain hunters stepped in following recent weakness in the sector. At Thursday’s close, the FTSE 350 mining sector had lost more than 11 per cent over the last four weeks. Anglo American (LSE: AAL.L – news) , Antofagasta (Other OTC: ANFGF – news) , and precious metals producer Fresnillo (Other OTC: FNLPF – news) were among the best performers today, along with Rio Tinto (Xetra: 855018 – news) and Glencore Xstrata (Other OTC: GLCNF – news) .

Intertek was also a strong performer. Citigroup (NYSE: C – news) yesterday reiterated its ‘buy’ rating on the stock following reports the group had increased its exploration and production services in Abu Dhabi after investing in a new facility.

Meanwhile, Hargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL.L – news) and Legal & General Group were both registering losses as the impact of Wednesday’s Budget continued to be felt across the annuity market. Some analysts have predicted that the market could fall by as much as £8bn to £4bn by September 2015 after Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans to do away with annuity pensions income. The statement had resulted in a number of broker downgrades to affected companies.

William Hill (Other OTC: WIMHF – news) moved into the red after Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS – news) lowered its target price from 400p to 395p and UBS (Xetra: UB0BL6 – news) reduced its own from 450p to 420p.

FTSE 100 – Risers
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 1,937.00p +3.80%
Fresnillo (Berlin: FNL.BE – news) (FRES) 885.00p +2.13%
Intertek Group (Other OTC: IKTSF – news) (ITRK) 3,000.00p +2.08%
Centrica (Frankfurt: CENB.F – news) (CNA (SES: E2:5GC.SI – news) ) 337.90p +2.05%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,439.50p +1.98%
Severn Trent (Other OTC: STRNY – news) (SVT) 1,888.00p +1.94%
HSBC Holdings (HKSE: 0005.HK – news) (HSBA) 605.70p +1.94%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 804.50p +1.84%
Unilever (Amsterdam: UNIA.AS – news) (ULVR) 2,420.00p +1.81%
Amec (Munich: AQ4.MU – news) (AMEC (Other OTC: AMCBF – news) ) 1,104.00p +1.66%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 206.00p -3.33%
Aberdeen Asset Management (Other OTC: ABDNF – news) (ADN) 363.30p -2.86%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,414.00p -2.82%
Aviva (Berlin: GU8.BE – news) (AV.) 480.30p -2.71%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 459.70p -2.44%
William Hill (WMH) 339.10p -2.16%
Burberry Group (LSE: BRBY.L – news) (BRBY) 1,390.00p -2.11%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS (LSE: RBS.L – news) ) 299.10p -2.03%
Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT.L – news) (AHT) 924.00p -1.81%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 77.37p -1.75%

FTSE 250 – Risers
Xaar (XAR) 896.00p +8.61%
AL Noor Hospitals Group (ANH) 985.00p +6.95%
Essar Energy (LSE: ESSR.L – news) (ESSR) 70.15p +6.29%
Investec (INVP) 471.00p +5.23%
Evraz (LSE: EVR.L – news) (EVR) 65.15p +3.33%
Northgate (NTG) 560.00p +3.04%
Interserve (Frankfurt: I5S.F – news) (IRV) 685.00p +2.93%
Carphone Warehouse Group (CPW) 339.30p +2.54%
Petra Diamonds Ltd (LSE: PDL.L – news) .(DI (KSE: 003160.KS – news) ) (PDL) 155.50p +2.37%
Fidelity China Special Situations (FCSS) 104.50p +2.25%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
Ocado Group (Other OTC: OCDGF – news) (OCDO) 443.70p -6.82%
Devro (DVO) 234.90p -5.96%
Fidessa Group (LSE: FDSA.L – news) (FDSA) 2,504.00p -4.24%
Kenmare Resources (LSE: KMR.L – news) (KMR) 14.07p -4.22%
Perform Group (Frankfurt: 8PG.F – news) (PER) 237.90p -4.07%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 2,536.00p -3.94%
Computacenter (CCC) 640.50p -3.47%
Kier Group (LSE: KIE.L – news) (KIE) 1,637.00p -3.42%
Atkins (WS) (ATK) 1,345.00p -3.38%
Cairn Energy (LSE: CNE.L – news) (CNE) 158.60p -3.29%