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FTSE holds up despite weak US job figures

GLOBAL stock markets maintained gains as a weaker-than-expected US jobs report failed to throw the bounceback off course.

Labour Department figures showed America's employers created 113,000 jobs in January, well below expectations of 185,000, but investors took heart from a fall in the unemployment rate.

After a lacklustre start to trading, the FTSE 100 Index in London closed 13.4 points higher at 6571.7.

US data showed the unemployment rate dipped to 6.6% in January from 6.7% in December - the lowest rate since October 2008. It is thought the figures may mean any further cuts to the country's multi-billion dollar economy-boosting drive are put on hold.

The pound gained strength against a weakened US dollar following the jobs report. Sterling rose a cent to 1.64 dollars and held firm at 1.20 euros.

Markets also digested a mixed picture from key trade figures for the UK and Europe.

Official data showed the UK trade deficit narrowed sharply to a 17-month low in December.

But any hopes it might be a sign of a re-balancing in the economy were blunted by a worse-than-forecast performance in manufacturing, which grew by just 0.3% in December.

A report also showed Germany's annual trade surplus reaching an all-time high, though there are concerns Europe's largest economy is relying too heavily on exports and not doing enough to encourage domestic demand.

Among stocks in London, Tate & Lyle was one of the biggest risers after a ratings upgrade from JP Morgan Cazenove.

Its analysts said underlying earnings growth had been held back by investment in speciality food ingredients for the last couple of years, but this was now bearing fruit and should drive an acceleration in profit growth. Shares rose nearly 2%, or 13.5p, to 774.5p.

Pharmaceuticals maker Shire was down after it said it was abandoning research into whether its hyperactivity drug could also be used as a treatment for depression, following trials. Shares were off 19p to 3122p.

Mobile phone giant Vodafone failed to build on gains made in the previous session when it had climbed 4% after it hailed a strong performance in emerging markets. The stock was down 1.9p to 222p.

In the FTSE 250 Index, Vedanta Resources was doing well after a vote of confidence from chairman Anil Agarwal as he bought 1.26 million shares. The stock rose more than 4%, or 35p, to 857.5p.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Persimmon, up 45p to 1385p, Whitbread, ahead 118p to 3935p, Aberdeen Asset Management, 12p higher at 419.8p and London Stock Exchange, 55p stronger at 1928p. The biggest fallers were BG Group, down 33.5p to 1053p, Tullow Oil, off 26p to 836.5p, Sports Direct International, 10.5p lower at 691p and Hargreaves Lansdown, 18p weaker at 1353p.

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