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A spring in FTSE's step but retailers left trailing; citybulletin.

THE FTSE 100 Index pushed higher after strong corporate news yesterday and better than expected home sales data from the US.

Blue-chips Legal & General and Cairn Energy led the London market to a new 21-month high close to the 5700 mark at one stage, although the top flight eventually closed 29.1 points up at 5673.6.

The leading Footsie riser was oil and gas explorer Cairn Energy, which rose 8% or 30.1p to 408.9p after flagging higher output from its Indian assets.

Meanwhile insurer Legal & General followed close behind after it posted an 87% rise in operating profits and predicted a recovery in its core pensions and savings markets. Shares in the group rose almost 5%, or 3.8p to 85.1p, as L&G also hiked the dividend.

Fellow insurer Admiral added 42p to 1327p.

British Airways firmed 6.5p or 3% to 247.5p, after the company said Unite's three-day strike had cost it an estimated pounds 21m, but left its expectations for the year broadly unchanged.

But retailers featured prominently on the Footsie fallers board following a gloomy profit warning from Carpetright in the FTSE 250. Carpetright slumped 11% or 101p to 825p in the second tier as the firm's sales failed to bounce back in February and March after the snow at the start of the year.

This knocked Argos and Homebase owner Home Retail Group in the top flight, shedding 6.9p to 275p, while B&Q firm Kingfisher - the Footsie's biggest faller - fell 6p to 227p.

Another Footsie casualty was defence giant BAE Systems, which shed 8.6p to 380.2p or 2% as the firm suffered a broker downgrade following yesterday's loss of a pounds 4bn deal for armoured vehicles to a US rival.

Back in the FTSE 250, services firm VT Group rose nearly 5%, or 31.5p to 721.5p - after its board recommended a takeover approach from rival Babcock International.

The offer, which values VT at pounds 1.3bn, comes after Babcock made several unsuccessful bids for the company. Babcock shares were up 5%, or 27.5p to 560p.

The biggest Footsie risers were Cairn Energy ahead 30.1p at 408.9p, Legal &General up 3.8p at 85.1p, Eurasian Natural Resources up 44p at 1194p and Petrofac up 42p at 1228p.

The biggest Footsie fallers were Kingfisher down 6p at 227p, Home Retail off 6.9p at 275p, BAE Systems down 8.6p at 380.2p and Unilever down 31p at 1909p.

Companies reporting results this week include: Today Finals: IQE Interims: Bellway, Smiths Trading update: Sainsbury's Economy: Chancellor Alistair Darling delivers the Budget Tomorrow Finals: Kingfisher, Moss Bros, Next, Signet, Sportech, Ted Baker Interims: Clinton Cards AGM: Thomas Cook Economy: Retail sales figures for February Friday Economy: Land Registry house prices
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 24, 2010
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