British stock markets broke records again last night as traders toasted a bumper year.
The blue-chip FTSE 100 climbed to an all-time closing high of 7620.68, after rising 0.37 per cent, or 28.02 points.
And the FTSE 250 index of smaller companies also ventured into uncharted territory, rising 0.78 per cent, or 158.97 points, to 20.640.04.
Yesterday’s rally was driven chiefly by mining stocks, helped by a jump in metal prices.
Copper shot to its highest level in three-and-a-half years and other commodities also rallied.
Oresome: Yesterday’s FTSE rally was driven chiefly by mining stocks, helped by a jump in metal prices
The metal was selling for $7,210 per ton on the London Metal Exchange early yesterday, its highest since July 2014, after a 19 per cent jump in top consumer China’s imports for November.
Zinc, lead and tin also all gained, although nickel slid 1.4 per cent.
Gold and silver were also up as the US dollar dipped. Mexico-based precious metals producer Fresnillo rose 3.5 per cent, or 47p, to 1397p. Anglo American was up 1.5 per cent, or 23p, to 1524p and Antofagasta rose 2.1 per cent, or 20.5p, to 984.5p.
They were joined by Glencore (up 2.1 per cent, or 7.75p, to 383.15p), Rio Tinto (up 1.4 per cent, or 53p, to 3799.5p), BHP (up 1.5 per cent, or 22.5p, to 1486p) and Randgold Resources, which increased 1.9 per cent, or 135p, to 7270p.
STOCK WATCH – UK OIL AND GAS
Shares in oil producer UK Oil and Gas Investments slumped 23.3 per cent, or 0.92p, to 3.05p, after disappointing test results from one zone at its Broadford Bridge well in the Weald Basin, West Sussex.
But it had more favourable results from other parts of the well, which it says has world-class oil potential.
Executive chairman Stephen Sanderson said that the tests had helped it identify the ‘sweet spot’.
The firm has investments in 10 UK onshore assets.
Another firm enjoying a day in the sun was Premier Oil, which produced the first crude from its flagship development in the North Sea in a major boost for the crisis-hit industry.
The £1.2billion Catcher area started producing on December 23, sending shares up 3.3 per cent, or 2.5p, to 78.75p.
The development of three fields will produce 10,000 barrels of oil per day initially before ramping up to 60,000.
Catcher is one of the biggest finds in the North Sea since 2001 and will sustain jobs in an industry which has been hammered by dwindling reserves and the slumping oil price.
For Premier, it means extra cash to help pay down its debt of around £2bn.
The firm committed to the development just before the oil price crash in 2014, forcing it to rack up debts to finance the project.
Eventually it came in about 29 per cent under budget, helped by foreign exchange savings as well as the company’s actions.
Premier’s chief executive Tony Durrant said: ‘Delivery of the first oil from Catcher represents a significant milestone for Premier.
‘It also demonstrates Premier’s continuing commitment to invest in the UK.’
The field does not use the Forties Pipeline system, which transports about 40 per cent of North Sea oil and gas to the mainland and was shut down in early December for repairs.
In the property market, London retail commercial owner Great Portland Estates announced the sale of 30 Broadwick Street, which is in Soho, to an unnamed buyer for £190million.
The building is occupied by finance firms including Boston Consulting Group, while shops on the ground floor include coffee company Nespresso, and make-up chain Bobbi Brown.
Shares in Great Portland rose 0.8 per cent, or 5.5p, to 683.5p.
Elsewhere, NMC Healthcare was up 3 per cent following reports that it was being considered for a lucrative deal to run a struggling hospital in Saudi Arabia.
It would mark a rare example of Riyadh allowing a foreign group to manage such a facility and sources have told Reuters that NMC was the frontrunner.
The London-listed firm’s shares were up 3.1 per cent, or 87p, to 2903p.
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