StockMarketWire.com - The pound hit nearly at a four-month low against the euro, while Royal Dutch Shell (RDSB) and BP (BP.) remained among the top risers on the FTSE despite weaker oil prices.

BP was further boosted by speculation US rival ExxonMobil is preparing a bid.

As the stocks are among the biggest on the index, the index closed 0.4% higher at 7,343.

Many companies on the market have operations overseas, which the weaker pound boosted through the unfavourable currency rate.

Other stocks that contributed to the positive momentum included Natwest owner Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Marmite owner Unilever (ULVR).

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil slid 0.6% to $49 and $51.84 per barrel, respectively.

Gold fell 0.2% to $1,199 per ounce and copper increased 0.4% to $5,688 per tonne.

OVERSEAS MARKETS

US unemployment figures changed minimally in February at 4.7%, although this will down from 4.9% a year earlier. The Dow Jones nudged higher on Friday, while the S&P 500 gained 0.2%.

In Asia, most of the markets closed higher on Friday ahead of the employment data, with the exception of Shanghai's SSE Composite, which nudged lower.

FTSE 100 RISERS AND FALLERS

Telecoms giant BT (BT.A) sparked 5% to 347p on a deal with regulator Ofcom to legally separate its Openreach infrastructure arm. The new business will have its own management and independent board but will still be part of the wider BT group.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Car insurer Esure (ESUR) accelerated 8% as it delivered an increase in full year premiums ahead of increased expectations and at the top end of analysts' forecasts. The company left its numbers unadjusted despite the change in the Ogden rate, governing the payouts to victims of car accidents, which hit several of its peers.

Budget-friendly pub chain JD Wetherspoon (JDW) as management warned that business rates may increase costs in the second half of its financial year, causing the stock to fall 3.6%.

Oil services firm Amec Foster Wheeler (AMFW) advanced 3.5% to 486.5p after it sealed long-term contracts in Brunei and Kuwait with undisclosed values.

Property developer Segro (SGRO) fell 5% as it snapped up the remaining 50% stake in the Airport Property Partnership joint venture it does not already own from Aviva Group Entities for £365m. Management said the acquisition aims to position the firm to take advantage of the recent decision to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport.

It is being funded by a fully underwritten 1 for 5 rights issue at 345p, which means shareholders can buy one share at the discounted price for every five they already hold.

Challenger bank Aldermore (ALD) declined 7% as major shareholder Anacap sold £113.7m worth of stock in the company at a discounted price of 220p per share.

Brick maker Ibstock (IBST) also suffered from a major shareholder exit some of its holding at a discount. Diamond SARL sold £97m worth of stock at 200p per share, causing the shares to fall 3.9%.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Kodal Minerals (KOD) raised £500,000 and agreed to start negotiations for an off-take agreement for future spodumene concentrate produced from its Bougouni Lithium project in Southern Mali. It also suggested a potential further investment in the company of up to £4.3m, prompting the stock to soar 46.2%.


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