Friday morning's business bulletin

London market opens in positive territory; Ministers face new fallout from Northern Rock episode; Business publishing group Centaur Media sees 28% rise in annual profits.

Buoyant commodity prices and a rebound for banking stocks helped boost the London market into positive territory today.

The FTSE 100 Index lifted 34.5 points to 6463.5 in early trading with energy stocks adding their weight to blue chips after the price of oil hit a record high for the fourth straight session on Thursday, before easing back overnight.

British Energy led the Footsie risers - up 13.5p at 502p - due to the expected benefits of higher fuel costs, while BG Group lifted 11p to 859p. Oil giant BP rose 7p to 597.5p and Royal Dutch Shell added 10p to 2100p.

Banking stocks enjoyed a rally with Northern Rock recouping 4.4p to 189.6p following yesterday’s 28% slide. Alliance & Leicester gained 14.5p to 770p and HBOS cheered 6.5p to 843.5p.

B&Q owner Kingfisher was the biggest loser of the session on the back of broker downgrades after its interim results on Thursday disappointed investors. The stock lost 3.3p to 177.7p, while Homebase owner Home Retail Group also suffered - down 3.5p at 370.25p.

Ministers face new fallout from the Northern Rock episode today as opposition MPs demand urgent action to prevent a repeat of the run on the embattled lender.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King’s call for a legislative overhaul of banking regulations was echoed by shadow chancellor George Osborne.

In evidence yesterday to MPs on the Treasury select committee, the Governor - who has come under pressure over his handling of the crisis - said a secret intervention would have prevented the rush of savers looking to withdraw their money.

In a letter to Chancellor Alistair Darling, Mr Osborne said reform was an ``urgent priority" and pressed for talks and early legislation when Parliament returns next month.

Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable laid the blame for the crisis squarely at the door of Number 10.

Business publishing group Centaur Media today said strong growth in advertising revenues helped it bank a 28% rise in annual profits.

The group, which publishes The Lawyer, Marketing Week and Money Marketing, said ad revenues increased by 16% thanks to strong demand in the legal and financial sector during the year to the end of June.

Adjusted pre-tax profits jumped to a record £16.9 million, up from £13.2 million last year, as growth in the firm’s events business and the launch of new products also boosted revenues.

The pound at 9am was US$2.0115 compared to US$2.0127 at the previous close while the euro at 9am was £0.6998 compared to £0.7002 at the previous close.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer