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Momentous week ends with record highs

Traders in London paused for breath at the end of a momentous week in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 17,000 for the first time.

With further impetus missing due to the Independence Day holiday in the United States, the FTSE 100 Index stuttered in its own pursuit of a new record, in a quiet session before the weekend.

Trading volumes were low, with the FTSE 100 witnessing just under half of its 90-day daily average.

It rose just 0.84 of a point - flat in percentage terms - to 6,866.05 points, which was its highest close since June 10 and up up 1.6 per cent this week.

Depsite signs the US is recovering fast from the bad weather that prompted a GDP contraction in the first quarter of the year, the pound was steady against the dollar, at 1.71, and the euro, at 1.26.

Henk Potts, equity strategist at Barclays, said: "The underlying picture still remains good in some of the key regions - the US and here in the UK of course - and you've still got an accommodative stance from the European Central Bank. I think the earnings that you see from companies will still be very supportive and good news for sentiment, but appreciate that actually investors may become a little bit nervous as we go through that period of liquidity starting to be removed and as interest rates start to normalise."

Mining stocks, which have climbed in recent days on the back of improved economic news, dominated the fallers board as Rio Tinto dipped 10.5p to 3287p and Anglo American fell 4p to 1521p.

Some of the biggest gains of the session were seen in the airline sector after it emerged that the number of passengers flying with low-fare airlines Ryanair and EasyJet increased last month despite the French air traffic control strike.

Luton-based EasyJet climbed 13p to 1361p, a rise of one per cent, as shares in the sector recovered from recent weakness.

British Airways owner International Airlines Group also rose and was 2.4p higher at 367.6p.

BT slipped 0.9p to 388p despite its pension scheme trustee agreeing an insurance deal to protect it against members living longer than expected.

Sports Direct International was the biggest faller in the top flight, giving away some of the gains made in Thursday's trading.

That came after reports claimed leading investors in the company were set to vote against the re-election of some board members at its annual general meeting in September.

The investors are reported to by angry at the retailer's bonus scheme which is likely to hand founder Mike Ashley millions of pounds worth of shares.

Sports Direct declined to comment on the reports. The stock fell 16p to 753p

Broadcaster ITV rose 0.1p to 183.8p after analysts at UBS upgraded the stock from 'neutral' to 'buy', saying it expects the broadcaster's first-half results to be solid driven by its World Cup coverage.

Outside the top flight, shares in troubled outsourcing firm Serco fell 1p to 362p after it lost out in the battle to continue running the Docklands Light Rail franchise it has operated since 1997.

A note from Oriel Securities on Serco said: "This loss today shows that Serco has fights on its hands to hold on to business as well as restore new win momentum."

Among other FTSE 250 stocks, online supermarket retailer Ocado was once again one of the big movers, falling 23.9p, or more than five per cent, to 416.1p after two days of solid gains seen as it signalled it is on track to post its first annual profit in 12 years.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Experian up 18p to 1021p, EasyJet up 13p to 1361p, Aggreko up 16p to 1700p and Morrisons up 1.7p 183.9p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 Index were Sport Direct International down 16p to 753p, British Land down 10p to 693.5p, Mondi down 14p to 1059p and CRH down 20p to 1535p.

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