LONDON (ShareCast) – – FTSE ends 28.26 points higher at 6,703
– Easter retail sales rise
– Ukraine kills militants, EU ponders Crimea sanctions

techMARK 2,759.85 +0.65%
FTSE 100 6,703.00 +0.42%
FTSE 250 15,991.77 +0.01%

The FTSE 100 closed above the key psychological barrier of 6,700, lifted by better-than-expected results from big US tech stocks Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL – news) and Facebook (NasdaqGS: FB – news) which boosted sentiment on this side of the Pond.

The top tier index ended the day up 28.26 points at 6,703.

Brenda Kelly, Chief Market Strategist at IG (LSE: IGG.L – news) , said: “The FTSE 100 spent most of the day sitting comfortably above 6700. This put it at its highest level since the first half of March, supported by positive feedback from Facebook and Apple results in the US overnight. AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN – news) results were just the pill needed to keep the positive atmosphere going, and the stock has held on to its gains in the afternoon session.

“Building firm Travis Perkins (LSE: TPK.L – news) is looking a little more lopsided as the day goes on, however, shedding all of its initial pop and now back to last week’s lows around £17.60. Having seen the shares double since 2012, investors can be forgiven for profit-taking, and it now seems that £20 is the roof on the price action for now.”

In UK macro news, it was revealed that Easter put a spring in the step of April retail sales, according to business lobby group the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Retailers did well during the month and boosted sales strongly versus the same time last year, the CBI’s monthly distributive trades survey of 131 companies showed.

Some 42% of respondents reported higher sales volumes than a year ago, while 12% said they were down, giving a balance of 30% against 13% in March, which the CBI described as a significant improvement.

Ukraine kills militants, EU ponders Crimea sanctions

Dragging the FTSE down from its intra-day high of around 6,724 was the latest from Eastern Europe, where Ukrainian troops moving to take back Slavyansk in the east of the country were reported to have killed between five and seven militants, although later in the day ‘paused’ their assault amid reports of Russian manoeuvres on the other side of the border.

Ukraine “paused to reformulate the plan”, a senior security official in Kiev as having said, according to reports from Kyiv Post editor Katya Gorchinskaya, amid a “heightened risk” of Russia sending troops into Ukraine.

Meanwhile, other wire reports cited documents that suggest the EU may ban transactions with financial institutions in Russian Crimea.

This comes on the same day that Russian President Vladimir Putin said current sanctions against Russia and its citizens were “causing damage”, by affecting credit ratings and making loans more expensive, but this was “of no critical character”.

AstraZeneca climbs after revenue beats expectations

AstraZeneca rose on the back of better-than-expected revenue growth of three per cent in the first quarter, driven by the pharmaceutical company’s diabetes franchise. Shares were up despite earnings falling by more than expected. AstraZeneca’s share price surged earlier this week on speculation it could be susceptible to a takeover bid from Pfizer (NYSE: PFE – news) .

Smith & Nephew (LSE: SN.L – news) was driven higher by news out from the States that Zimmer Holdings (NYSE: ZMH – news) , the US maker of artificial joints, has agreed to purchase rival orthopedic-device maker Biomet in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $ 13.4bn. Biomet’s parent, Biomet Group, had been planning an initial public offering.

Meanwhile, building materials supplier Travis Perkins fell sharply despite a strong first-quarter report, as investors took the opportunity to take profits.

Associated British Foods (LSE: ABF.L – news) retreated from yesterday’s strong gains which came after the company announced its intention to expand its fast-growing Primark brand into the US towards the end of next year.

Consumer goods giant Unilever (NYSE: UL – news) signalled an upturn in Europe in its first quarter, but said growth was slowing in emerging markets as it reported a 6.3% fall in turnover to €11.4bn due to currency headwinds, causing shares to drop.

Hammerson (Other OTC: HMSNF – news) fell after HSBC downgraded the real estate investment trust from ‘overweight’ to ‘neutral’.

FTSE 100 – Risers
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 909.00p +3.35%
AstraZeneca (EUREX: AZNF.EX – news) (AZN) 4,175.00p +3.28%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 1,992.00p +2.21%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,438.00p +2.13%
Shire Plc (LSE: SHP.L – news) (SHP) 3,248.00p +1.85%
SABMiller (Berlin: BRW1.BE – news) (SAB) 3,110.00p +1.83%
Burberry Group (LSE: BRBY.L – news) (BRBY) 1,454.00p +1.75%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 413.30p +1.47%
BG Group (LSE: BG.L – news) (BG.) 1,150.00p +1.41%
Aggreko (Dusseldorf: 4A4A.DU – news) (AGK) 1,559.00p +1.30%

FTSE 100 – Fallers
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,763.00p -3.77%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,865.00p -3.27%
Ashtead Group (LSE: AHT.L – news) (AHT) 848.50p -3.25%
Unilever (Amsterdam: UNIA.AS – news) (ULVR) 2,590.00p -1.67%
Hammerson (HMSO) 573.50p -1.21%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 205.10p -0.97%
Sports Direct International (Other OTC: SDISY – news) (SPD) 789.50p -0.94%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,659.00p -0.87%
Fresnillo (Berlin: FNL.BE – news) (FRES) 846.00p -0.82%
British Land Co (BLND) 682.00p -0.80%

FTSE 250 – Risers
Centamin (DI (KSE: 003160.KS – news) ) (CEY) 62.50p +11.71%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 197.40p +7.40%
Petra Diamonds Ltd (LSE: PDL.L – news) .(DI) (PDL) 167.10p +6.98%
Just Retirement Group (JRG) 162.50p +5.25%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 392.70p +4.64%
Tullett Prebon (LSE: TLPR.L – news) (TLPR) 305.40p +4.05%
Amec (Munich: AQ4.MU – news) (AMEC (Other OTC: AMCBF – news) ) 1,244.00p +2.90%
Heritage Oil (Other OTC: HGOCF – news) (HOIL) 264.40p +2.76%
Premier Oil (LSE: PMO.L – news) (PMO) 313.50p +2.75%
Laird (LRD) 295.20p +2.68%

FTSE 250 – Fallers
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 349.10p -4.33%
Bellway (BWY) 1,476.00p -3.84%
Spirent Communications (Other OTC: SPMYY – news) (SPT (Taiwan OTC: 8431.TWO – news) ) 100.50p -3.37%
Xaar (XAR) 865.00p -3.24%
Taylor Wimpey (LSE: TW.L – news) (TW.) 105.80p -3.02%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 334.60p -2.90%
Redrow (RDW) 278.80p -2.86%
Supergroup (Frankfurt: 49S.F – news) (SGP) 1,464.00p -2.85%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 806.00p -2.83%
Ocado Group (Other OTC: OCDGF – news) (OCDO) 343.20p -2.58%

FTSE TechMARK – Risers
Gresham Computing (LSE: GHT.L – news) (GHT) 136.00p +7.94%
Torotrak (Frankfurt: TQ5.F – news) (TRK) 22.38p +5.29%
NCC Group (LSE: NCC.L – news) (NCC (Other OTC: NCCBF – news) ) 191.25p +2.27%
Skyepharma (Frankfurt: SK8C.F – news) (SKP) 235.00p +2.17%
Anite (AIE) 82.00p +1.86%
Dialight (DIA (Berlin: DI6.BE – news) ) 950.00p +0.85%
Ricardo (RCDO) 675.00p +0.07%

FTSE TechMARK – Fallers
Puricore (PURI) 41.00p -9.89%
Wolfson Microelectronics (LSE: WLF.L – news) (WLF) 133.00p -2.92%
XP Power Ltd (LSE: XPP.L – news) . (DI) (XPP) 1,608.00p -1.95%
E2V Technologies (LSE: E2V.L – news) (E2V) 166.75p -1.77%
Sepura (Frankfurt: 3SE.F – news) (SEPU) 132.25p -1.67%
BATM Advanced Communications Ltd (LSE: BVC.L – news) . (BVC) 17.75p -1.39%
Optos (OPTS) 171.75p -1.29%
Phoenix IT Group (PNX) 115.75p -1.28%
Kofax Limited (NasdaqGS: KFX – news) (DI) (KFX) 462.25p -0.80%
SDL (SDL (LSE: SDL.L – news) ) 319.75p -0.39%