LONDON (ShareCast) – – FTSE closes up 42.56 points at 6,584.17
– UK unemployment data drops to 6.9 per cent
– US industrial production rises more than expected

techMARK 2,651.59 +0.79%
FTSE 100 6,584.17 +0.65%
FTSE 250 15,745.98 +1.00%

A strong finish to today’s session put an end to the recent pattern of losses amongst UK companies, with so-called ‘momentum’ stocks providing a lift alongside several strong earnings reports.

The FTSE 100 closed up 42.56 points at 6,584.17.

Also aiding the upwards trend was the release of UK unemployment data, which dropped unexpectedly to 6.9% for the three months to February, down from 7.2% in the previous three months and below the consensus forecast of 7.1%.

Also in the UK, the financial morale of UK households reached its highest level in over five years this month as consumers worried less about rising inflation, according to data released by Markit.

The closely-watched Household Finance Index (HFI) rose from 41.9 in March to 43.1 in April, signalling the least marked squeeze on finances since the survey began in February 2009.

The HFI surveys the financial wellbeing of 1,500 people across Britain and is designed to anticipate changing consumer behaviour.

Both of these helped offset mixed data out from China overnight, which showed annualised economic growth slowing from 7.7% to 7.4% in the first quarter. This was ahead of analysts’ estimates, but below the government’s 7.5% growth target for the full year.

Meanwhile, Chinese industrial production and fixed asset investment growth for March missed consensus forecasts, while retail sales came in slightly ahead.

US industrial and manufacturing output rises following bleak winter

Over in the States, industrial production rose more than expected in March as the weather improved following a rough winter.

Output increased by 0.7% last month, following a 1.2% increase in February. Analysts had expected a 0.5% gain.

In other economic data from the US, home construction market disappointed, with housing starts rising less than expected and building permits falling sharply in March.

Privately-owned housing starts rose 2.8% to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 946,000 last month. This was higher than the upwardly revised 920,000 rate in February but well under the 970,000 consensus forecast.

As for the situation in Eastern Europe, the Ukrainian Defence Ministry has claimed that ‘Russian saboteurs’ captured six of its armed vehicles in the eastern city of Kramatorsk.

A statement from the Ministry, reported in the Kyiv Post, said local residents blocked a column of armoured vehicles this morning.

Sports Direct (Frankfurt: A0MK5S – news) regains recent lost ground

Sports Direct, IAG and Ashtead have all been under heavy selling pressure over the past week as investors took profits following some impressive gains over the last year.

These stocks, however, were performing well today with Sports Direct the stand-out performer, rising more than 6% after Bank of America Merrill Lynch raised its target price and said that the market is underestimating the company’s international and online growth prospects.

Tesco (Xetra: TCO.DE – news) profits fell for the first time in 20 years, but shares gained as the decline was not as bad as analysts predicted. A 6.7% fall in group trading profit to £3.32bn was still marginally ahead of consensus analyst forecasts of £3.24bn.

Both BAE Systems (LSE: BA.L – news) and Melrose were notable fallers after going ex-dividend today.

Fresnillo (Other OTC: FNLPF – news) also fell sharply after revealing that its first-quarter attributable gold production totalled 82,653 ounces, down 29.7% year-on-year after the stoppage of operations at Soledad-Dipolos and the temporary suspension of explosives permits affected the Herradura mine in January and February.

FTSE 100 – Risers
Sports Direct International (Other OTC: SDISY – news) (SPD) 787.50p +5.63%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 395.20p +5.05%
Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT.L – news) (AHT) 888.00p +5.03%
Travis Perkins (LSE: TPK.L – news) (TPK) 1,775.00p +3.74%
ITV (Frankfurt: IJ7.F – news) (ITV (LSE: ITV.L – news) ) 180.00p +3.69%
GKN (Berlin: GKN.BE – news) (GKN (LSE: GKN.L – news) ) 386.20p +3.23%
Burberry Group (LSE: BRBY.L – news) (BRBY) 1,466.00p +3.09%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,653.00p +2.80%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 72.86p +2.71%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 427.70p +2.66%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
BAE Systems (BA.) 376.00p -4.06%
Barratt Developments (LSE: BDEV.L – news) (BDEV) 365.00p -2.17%
Fresnillo (Berlin: FNL.BE – news) (FRES) 884.00p -1.94%
Aggreko (Dusseldorf: 4A4A.DU – news) (AGK) 1,502.00p -1.70%
Smith & Nephew (LSE: SN.L – news) (SN.) 860.50p -1.26%
Hargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL.L – news) (HL.) 1,199.00p -0.99%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,395.00p -0.85%
British American Tobacco (LSE: BATS.L – news) (BATS) 3,415.50p -0.58%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,701.00p -0.55%
Melrose Industries (Other OTC: MLSPF – news) (MRO) 281.00p -0.53%

FTSE 250 – Risers
JD Sports Fashion (LSE: JD.L – news) (JD.) 1,708.00p +6.75%
Greencore Group (LSE: GNC.L – news) (GNC) 259.40p +5.62%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 318.00p +5.23%
Mitchells & Butlers (LSE: MAB.L – news) (MAB) 445.90p +4.77%
Britvic (Munich: B6S.MU – news) (BVIC) 708.00p +4.42%
Elementis (ELM) 286.00p +4.04%
Homeserve (HSV) 329.40p +4.01%
Renishaw (Frankfurt: REW.F – news) (RSW) 1,945.00p +3.90%
Rentokil Initial (LSE: RTO.L – news) (RTO) 120.10p +3.89%
Xaar (XAR) 861.50p +3.86%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
Lancashire Holdings Limited (Other OTC: LCSHF – news) (LRE) 664.50p -5.34%
Amlin (AML) 442.90p -4.92%
COLT Group SA (COLT) 144.90p -2.42%
Betfair Group (LSE: BET.L – news) (BET) 993.00p -1.97%
Alent (LSE: ALNT.L – news) (ALNT) 306.30p -1.48%
Heritage Oil (Other OTC: HGOCF – news) (HOIL) 252.80p -1.44%
Serco Group (Other OTC: SECCF – news) (SRP) 407.20p -1.33%
NB Global Floating Rate Income Fund Ltd GBP (NBLS) 98.00p -1.31%
Evraz (LSE: EVR.L – news) (EVR) 83.45p -1.24%
BH Macro Ltd (Other OTC: BHMDF – news) . USD Shares (BHMU) 18.75 -1.16%