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Property price rise boost for house builders

House builders notched up gains after more cheer on property prices and a big jump in profits from one of the major players.

Figures from Halifax showed house values leapt 7.7% higher year on year while FTSE 250-listed Berkeley Group posted a 19% hike in profits.

On the wider market, the FTSE 100 Index climbed 53.7 points to 6552 on a fall in US unemployment to a five-year low of 7%.

It was a figure which looked positive enough without being so good that it prompted fears of US Federal Reserve's multibillion-dollar monthly programme of quantitative easing starting to be eased off.

The data helped the City's top flight to regain confidence after five sessions of falls, as well as lifting Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average and bourses in Europe.

On currency markets, sterling was flat at $1.63 and €1.19.

In London, Berkeley was the big winner, climbing 11%, or 255p, to 2537p. The group, which is focused on the capital and the South East, said its full-year earnings could rise towards the top end of expectations. Its strong performance rubbed off on fellow builders - which were also buoyed by the Halifax data, which came on top of an Autumn Statement boost announcing loans worth £1 billion to unblock housing developments.

On the FTSE 100, Charles Church parent Persimmon climbed 29p to 1183p, while on the FTSE 250 builder Barratt Developments was up 13.2p to 337.9p, with Bellway up 44p to 1440p and Bovis Homes 23p ahead to 777p.

Domino's Pizza was the biggest faller on the second tier after its chief executive, Lance Batchelor, announced plans to leave the fast-food firm to join an unnamed private equity-backed company.

He will remain with the group until the end of April, but shares fell 9%, or 49p, to 480p.

A change at the top for FirstGroup helped the bus and rail operator enjoy better fortunes after it said Aviva chairman John McFarlane would take on the same role at the firm, in place of Martin Gilbert. Shares lifted 5.5p to 116.6p, up 5%.

Meanwhile, in the top flight, BP and Royal Dutch Shell were buoyed after a positive note from HSBC. Rising oil prices also helped. Shell lifted 3% or 61p to 2157p, while BP added 2.3p to 477.4p.

Standard Chartered meandered at the end of a torrid week for the Asia-focused group, which has admitted bank statements for 647 clients were found on the laptop of an alleged website hacker in Singapore. Shares drifted lower but by the end of the session were back in positive territory, climbing 6.5p to 1331p.

The biggest FTSE 100 risers were Petrofac, up 42p to 1194p, Royal Dutch Shell up 61p to 2157p, and London Stock Exchange up 44p to 1626p.

The biggest FTSE 100 fallers were Whitbread, down 54p to 3492p, International Airlines Group down 5.4p to 357.6p, and Reckitt Benckiser down 63p to 4772p.

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