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FTSE 100 heading for record

The recent surge in the FTSE 100 Index continued today as the London market followed Wall Street's lead in heading towards a record high.

Both the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average have consolidated their recent all-time peaks after it emerged that US businesses added 281,000 jobs last month, up from 179,000 in the previous month.

The figures extended a recent run of positive economic news on both sides of the Atlantic, helping the FTSE 100 Index climb 31.8 points to 6848.3.

The all-time record close of 6930 set in December 1999 is now back in sight as the top flight continues its recovery following a disappointing June.

The pound remained near its six year high against the US dollar, even though the latest CIPS survey for the services sector showed a slight slowdown on the previous month.

With the reading still well above the measure of 50 which indicates expansion, the pound held firm at 1.71 against the US dollar and 1.25 versus the euro.

Stronger demand, as indicated by recent economic updates, helped mining stocks post strong gains in the FTSE 100 Index. Antofagasta set the pace with a rise of 31.5p to 813p, while Anglo American was 27p higher at 1512p.

Other big movers in London included mobile phone giant Vodafone, which rose 2.8p to 197.4p, and Barclays with a gain of 2.1p to 219.2p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, Poundland was more than 3% higher after issuing better-than-expected full-year results. Underlying pre-tax profits rose 23.5% to a record £36.8 million while the retailer also reported a strong start to the new financial year, with first quarter sales up by 18%.

Shares, which have fallen since the company's stock market flotation earlier this year, surged by 11.75p to 340.45p as Poundland set out plans for 60 new outlets this year.

In contrast, shares in Balfour Beatty dived 11% - off 26.25p to 206.75p - after it highlighted a further deterioration in the performance of its mechanical and electrical engineering operation in the UK.

It has uncovered a further £35 million shortfall in profits at the division, although trading in the rest of the company is in line with expectations.

Shares in pub chain Greene King were 3% lower after it reported a slowdown in sales over the first eight weeks of its new financial year, having seen a rise of 4.1% in the previous year. The stock was 29.8p lower at 817.2p, even though the chain reported another set of record annual profits.

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