- FTSE closes up 40.46 at 6,568.35
- Help to Buy extended, Persimmon leads gains
- Crimea votes to rejoin Russia, travel bans imposed
techMARK 2,796.14 +1.11%
FTSE 100 6,568.35 +0.62%
FTSE 250 16,297.38 +1.07%
The City ended today's session in a buoyant mood, lifted by a strong performance amongst housebuilders on news of the 'Help to Buy' extension.
FTSE 100 closed up 40.46 points at 6,568.35.
The government's Help-to-Buy scheme will be extended to 2020, at a cost of £6bn, Chancellor George Osborne announced during a debate on the BBC's 'The Andrew Marr Show'.
Measures to help the housing sector were expected when the Chancellor unveils his 2014 Budget on Wednesday.
In related news, asking prices for homes in the UK rose by 1.6% month-on-month in March, to hit a new record high of £255,962, according to property website Rightmove. The number of properties on sale grew by 114,996, making for a gain of 3.4% over the previous month.
"The mass property market is starting to unlock after years of being handcuffed by fragile consumer confidence and a lack of low-deposit mortgages," claimed Miles Shipside, Rightmove Director and housing market analyst.
Shopper numbers in February drop at worst rate since March 2013
Bad weather and a fresh wave of belt-tightening after the New Year sales kept shoppers off the UK High Street last month, dealing another blow to the fragile economic recovery.
The number of shoppers in February fell 2.9% against the same month a year ago, when numbers increased by 2.7%, according to the British Retail Consortium and retail researchers Springboard.
Crimea votes to rejoin Russia
Turning the focus outside of the UK, an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted in a referendum on Sunday to rejoin Russia, even while the US and Europe promised not to recognise the outcome.
Approximately 96% of the population of Crimea voted to separate from the Ukraine and join the Russian Federation with only about 3.5% having chosen to remain part of the country with more autonomy. No option was given to remain a part of the Ukraine with the constitution unaltered.
The US already officially declared the referendum to be illegal and President Barack Obama promised that the vote would never be recognised by the US or the international community.
Both the EU and the US have imposed travel bans and asset freezes against nearly two dozen officials from the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
Nonetheless, investors were thought to be reacting positively to the fact that the sanctions put in place against Russia were, as some observers described them, "toothless". Hence, traders may have drawn the conclusion that mild sanctions are an indication that neither side will push the current situation to the limit.
Nonetheless, market commentary seems to still be split as to whether Russia will indeed annex Crimea outright.
Thus, investors will likely be keenly watching a speech by Russia's President Vladimir Putin scheduled for Tuesday.
Over in China, the central bank doubled its limit on yuan trading against the dollar, meaning it can trade as much as 2% of the daily bank reference rate, rather an 1%. It said now was the "appropriate time" and part of its "plans for gradual reform".
Persimmon lifted by 'Help to Buy' extension
Housebuilder Persimmon was in the top spot after UK Chancellor George Osborne announced that he is extending the 'Help to Buy' mortgage guarantee scheme by a further four years. The group's sector peers and number of industry related companies were also seen putting in a strong performance.
Mining stocks also did well with Glencore Xstrata among the highest risers on the back of speculation that it is close to announcing a multi-billion dollar
transaction to sell its Las Bambas mine.
DIY retailer Kingfisher was given a lift by a target price upgrade from Credit Suisse.
Meanwhile, Diageo, the drinks giant, was driven lower in part by a Motley Fool article which cited the slide in emerging markets and its waning cash pile as two "resounding reasons" not to invest in the stock.
Supermarket giant Tesco was in the red after Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut its rating on the shares
from 'neutral' to 'underperform'. Over the weekend, the Sunday Telegraph's Questor column also advised investors to sell.
Sector peer Sainsbury was also lower ahead of a trading update due out this week. The group is expected to post 3% drop in like-for-like quarterly revenue, having posted a consecutive increase for the past 36 quarters.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Sports Direct International (SPD) 858.50p +4.06%
Persimmon (PSN) 1,361.00p +3.66%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 1,485.00p +3.63%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 96.50p +3.54%
Glencore Xstrata (GLEN) 306.60p +3.23%
Kingfisher (KGF) 414.10p +3.09%
G4S (GFS) 236.20p +2.96%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,461.50p +2.71%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 1,950.00p +2.52%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 922.50p +2.50%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Diageo (DGE) 1,780.00p -2.25%
Tesco (TSCO) 299.70p -1.32%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,200.50p -0.73%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 311.40p -0.70%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 4,817.00p -0.62%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,969.00p -0.54%
Capita (CPI) 1,105.00p -0.36%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 207.40p -0.29%
Royal Dutch Shell 'B' (RDSB) 2,286.00p -0.26%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 775.50p -0.19%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Kenmare Resources (KMR) 15.00p +10.29%
Polymetal International (POLY) 622.00p +9.22%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 895.00p +4.68%
Home Retail Group (HOME) 217.60p +4.41%
Crest Nicholson Holdings (CRST) 381.00p +4.33%
Grainger (GRI) 240.20p +4.12%
Xaar (XAR) 997.50p +3.96%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 312.90p +3.88%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 804.00p +3.88%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 347.00p +3.86%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Genus (GNS) 1,049.00p -3.50%
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 255.10p -3.37%
Essar Energy (ESSR) 64.35p -3.31%
CSR (CSR) 718.00p -2.25%
Imagination Technologies Group (IMG) 159.70p -1.90%
ITE Group (ITE) 219.90p -1.70%
Cranswick (CWK) 1,214.00p -1.54%
IP Group (IPO) 206.30p -1.24%
Hellermanntyton Group (HTY) 320.50p -1.23%
Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group (JLT) 1,053.00p -1.22%