StockMarketWire.com - MIDDAY REPORT: Headline shares made strong gains in midday trade, as a flurry of largely well-received blue chip earnings lifted investor sentiment, with Lloyds Banking Group leading the charge.

At midday, the FTSE100 was up 72.25 points at 5,583.07 with the FTSE250 ahead 122.3 points at 10,424.5 and the FTSE Smallcaps 8.27 points better at 2,838.39.

NEW YORK

US stock futures were firmly higher on hopes of a quick resolution to the political stand-offs in Europe.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up 45 points at 12,052, S&P500 futures rose 3 points at 1,260 and Nasdaq 100 futures added 13 points at 2,383.

LONDON MARKETS

A busy day for blue chip earnings gave investors in London an opportunity to move away from Eurozone concerns for a while, with numbers from M&S, Vodafone, Prudential and Lloyds well-received.

Banks were led higher by Lloyds as investors opted to 'accentuate the positive' when it reported profit before tax of 644m for the last quarter, down from 820m previously, missing estimates. At the same time the group reported a welcome reduction in risk.

Lloyds shares topped the early leaderboard, up 2.19p at 29.88p, while Royal Bank of Scotland rose 0.53p at 22.78p and Barclays ticked up 2.9p at 182.25p.

Insurer Prudential jumped 18.5p at 636.5p on reporting strong Q3 profits, driven by stellar new business in Asia.

Most fund managers benefited from the change in sentiment, with Ashmore up 6.5p at 344.5p and Man Group 5.45p better at 146.75p.

Meanwhile, interdealer broker ICAP continued its recovery, gaining 6.9p at 369.6p.

In the retail sector, inspiration was provided by Marks & Spencer, ahead 6.2p at 332.2p, although reporting a drop in first half profits on disappointing clothing sales and the effects of price cutting.

Primark owner AB Foods jumped 27.5p at 1,139.5p as well-received full-year numbers beat expectations, despite a slowdown in Primark's progress.

Elsewhere in the sector, supermarket operators were in demand, shrugging off news of shrinking high street sales in October, with Tesco adding 1.95p at 406.6p, Sainsbury up 3.25p at 301.85p and Morrisons 2.55p better at 312.85p.

Better-than-expected half-year results from Vodafone pushed shares in the mobile phone giant ahead 5.03p at 177.88p. Vodafone raised its guidance, while increasing dividend and announcing a special 4p per share payout.

Commercial property group Segro gained 5.5p at 234.9p after upbeat third quarter earnings and falling vacancy levels. Mall specialist Hammerson was ahead 6.6p at 401.6p, as it too reported improved occupancy rates.

Mining shares moved higher on signs of improvement in metals prices, with Vedanta Resources top dog, up 37p at 1,288p. Rio Tinto ticked up 79.25p at 3,546.75p and Anglo American improved 60.25p at 2,429.75p.

On the downside with blue chips, hotel group InterContinental fell foul of profit-taking after sound third quarter results, with the successful relaunch of its Holiday Inn chain a highlight. IHG shares slipped 30p at 1,065p. Rival Whitbread gained 9p at 1,666p.

Gold miner Randgold Resources slipped 55p at 7,400p as the price of the shiny metal eased from recent highs.

Some utilities lost their attraction as defensive plays, with International Power down 2.05p at 333.25p, United Utilities off 5p at 619p and National Grid 0.25p lower at 622.25p.

However, pharma giant AstraZeneca was the biggest loser of the day, slumping 118.5p at 2,848p after disappointing from an anti-depressant drug jointly developed with Targacep.

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