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House builders lifted by Help to Buy move

House building stocks have surged after George Osborne's move to extend the Government's Help to Buy scheme until the end of the decade.

The Chancellor's pre-Budget announcement that another £6  billion will be invested in the equity loan part of the scheme to help an estimated 120,000 more households lifted some shares in the sector by as much as 5%.

It came as the FTSE 100 Index bounced back after six straight sessions in the red to close 40.5 points up at 6568.4 - despite the prospect of escalating global tensions after Crimeans voted over the weekend to secede from Ukraine.

Analysts said the implications of the result in notching up friction between Russia and Western capitals had already been factored in by markets' steep losses in previous sessions.

Bourses in Europe were even more bullish, as Germany's Dax and France's Cac 40 rose more than 1%. Markets appeared relieved as the West seemed to respond with only a shot across the bows - with sanctions against certain officials rather than wider punitive measures.

On currency markets, sterling was unmoved, holding firm at 1.66 US dollars and 1.20 euros.

Persimmon was among the leading risers in the top flight with a gain of nearly 4% or 48p to 1361p after the latest extension in taxpayer support for the property sector.

The company's value has now surged by about £2 billion, or 82%, to £4.2bn, since the start of 2013, aided by improvements in the overall economy and a property market which has been buoyed by Help to Buy.

Outside the top flight, Barratt Developments improved 3%, or 12.6p, to 424.8p, Taylor Wimpey rose 2.4p to 118.2p and Berkeley Group lifted 10p to 2652p.

Other building-related stocks benefited as equipment hire firm Ashtead rose 22.5p to 922.5p and Travis Perkins cheered 27p to 1878p.

The weekend's warm weather raised hopes of a lift to seasonal sales at B&Q as owner Kingfisher rose 12.4p to 414.1p in the FTSE 100 Index.

Shares in mobile phone company Vodafone were also on the front foot as it rose 3.8p to 226p following a £6bn deal to acquire Spanish cable operator Ono.

Supermarkets remained under pressure on fears about the impact that the current round of price cuts will have on margins in the sector.

Tesco fell 4p to 299.7p and Morrisons, which sparked the latest sell-off after vowing to invest £1bn in lowering prices over the next three years, dropped 0.6p to 207.4p. Sainsbury's eased 4.8p lower to 308.8p.

Other big FTSE-100 risers were Sports Direct, up 33.5p to 858.5p, Coca-Cola HBC up 52p to 1485p and RSA Insurance up 3.3p to 96.5p.

Other big FTSE-100 fallers were Diageo down 41p to 1780p and British American Tobacco down 23.5p to 3200.5p.

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