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Emerging markets rebound boosts Unilever

Signs of a rebound in emerging markets helped deliver a shares boost for consumer goods giant Unilever, as the Ben & Jerry's ice cream maker confirmed a solid end to 2013.

The Flora-to-Dove Soap firm delivered a better than expected final quarter, with underlying sales up by 4.1% as it continued to put last autumn's profit warning behind it.

But the wider London market struggled to gain headway - closing down 2.5 points at 6834.3 - as Wall Street returned in a cautious mood after yesterday's holiday for Martin Luther King Day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 100 points in early trade after a mixed set of results from Verizon Communications and healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson.

A sharp upgrade to the International Monetary Fund's growth expectation for the UK this year - a forecast of 2.4% from the previous figure of 1.9% - gave the pound a fillip as it predicted that Britain would be among the fastest-growing of the world's advanced economies in 2014.

Sterling rose against most major currencies, nudging up to $1.65 and €1.21.

Hargreaves Lansdown was one of the biggest risers in the top flight, as investors digested last week's shake-up of fund supermarket fees ahead of new regulations due to come into force in April. Shares in the company fell sharply last week on fears of a price war before recovering today with a rise of 40p to 1549p.

The Bristol-based firm was joined on the risers board by Unilever, which climbed 43p to 2480p after it announced a 9% rise in net profit to €5.3 billion (£4.4 bn) for last year.

The company issued a profits warning in September due to currency weakness in countries such as Brazil and India.

Rival firm Reckitt Benckiser was higher, up 71p to 4754p, while drinks company Diageo added 38p to 1985p.

Brewing company SABMiller featured on the blue-chip fallers board as it highlighted the impact of continued weak consumer sentiment in its European and North American businesses.

The overall group performance for the quarter to December 31 met City expectations, but shares in the Peroni company still fell 8p to 3086p.

Outside the top flight, Imperial Leather and Carex maker PZ Cussons was in the spotlight after it reported an 8% rise in half-year profits to £47.6 million.

Shares slipped 8.7p to 387.5p even though it said trading at the start of the second half had been in line with expectations.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Associated British Foods up 114p at 2806p, Intertek Group 92p ahead at 3000p, Hargreaves Lansdown, and Imperial Tobacco 56p stronger at 2284p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Rio Tinto down 104.5p to 3231.5p, Antofagasta off 25.5p to 819.5p, Anglo American 37p lower 1356p and Weir Group 53p weaker at 2174p.

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