StockMarketWire.com - FTSE indices reversed earlier softness to close up, mid-caps within an ace of fresh highs as they and blue-chips shrugged off ex-dividend ballast. Several retail issues rose, and a string of oil stocks gained as crude surged. US and European markets firmed.

FTSE 100 closed up 6.21 points, or 0.09%, to 7013.47. FTSE 250 rose 19.02, or 0.1%, to 18,154.6. At 4.44pm, WTI crude was up 2.66% to $60.56/bbl. Brent rose 2.46% to $66.63/bbl. The Greece debt saga continues. Among UK ex-divs were Carnival (CCL), Clarkson (CKN), HSBC (HSBA), Michael Page (MPI) and many others.

Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) rose 2.19% to 448.5p, but there after the story was retail heavy. M&S (MKS) gained 1.71% to 593.5p, with Kingfisher (KGF), Sports Direct (SPD) and Dixons Carphone (DC.) and others following. Tesco (TSCO) added 0.09% on 220.7p on chatter it was on the verge of selling its Korean business.

Oil stocks were in northbound focus as crude vaulted up more than 2%. BP (BP.) led with a 1.31% gain to 458p, with Shell (RDSA), BG Group (BG.) and more behind. Miners booked gains, but were generally well off the pace. About 40 stocks were lower, these led by ex-div house builder Taylor Wimpey (TW.), off 4.07% to 184p.

In the news, United Utilities (UU.) lost 0.3% to 1006p as its FY profit softened, while National Grid (NG.) rose 0.63% to 909p despite an improved FY pretax profit. Smiths Group (SMIN) added 1.54% to 1190p as its FY outlook remained unchanged. Royal Mail (RMG) rose 0.02% to 500p as its FY pretax profit improved.

BIGGER MOVERS

Secure Property Development & Investment (SPDI), up 30.23% to 28p, has agreed to acquire a series of prime property assets in Romania and Bulgaria, hiking its annualised net operating income to over 8m euros.

Phoenix IT Group (PNX), up 18.22% to 152.5p, is in advanced talks after receiving an approach from Daisy Group Ltd and Toscafund Asset Management regarding a possible recommended cash offer at 160p a share. PNX had indicated, subject to terms and conditions, that it was willing to recommend the possible offer.

Tristel (TSTL), up 10.39% to 85p, has raised its internal views for the financial year and pre-tax profit (before share-based payments) is now expected to be not less than £2.5m, from £1.8m.

Concurrent Technologies (CNC), up 13.79% to 49.5p, said its strong order book at end-2014 has continued into the current FY. It sees H1 revenue up. It said this sales growth may not be sustainable in future periods.

ECONOMIC NEWS

Stateside, manufacturing activity rose in May but at a slower rate than in April, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's Manufacturing Business Outlook Survey showed. Its diffusion index of current activity fell to 6.7 in May, from 7.5 in April.

US existing–home sales slowed in April but remained above an annual sales pace of 5m for the second month, National Association of Realtors said. Total existing–home sales fell 3.3% to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.04m in April, from March's revised 5.21m.

The US Conference Board Leading Economic Index rose 0.7% in April to 122.3, following a 0.4% gain in March, and a 0.2% fall in February.

US initial unemployment claims rose to 274,000 in the week ended May 16, up 10,000 on the week, US Department of Labor said.

Euro zone's current account surplus narrowed in March from February to 18.6bn euros, data from European Central Bank showed. February's surplus was upwardly revised to 27.3bn euros.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Qinetiq (QQ.) gained 11.15% to 239.2p as the defence specialist cautioned that the outlook for defence spending in the UK remains uncertain as government cost-cutting looks set to continue. FY pretax profit was £105.4m, from £84.0m.

Booker (BOK) rose 11.78% to 169.9p on strong final results, news of a second capital return worth £62m and the £40m acquisition of the Londis and Budgens chains in Great Britain.

Bahamas Petroleum (BPC) rose 9.33% to 2.46p after it noted the Petroleum Bill and suite of associated regulations as well as a Sovereign Wealth Bill have been put before the Bahamian House of Assembly for their second readings.

Local Shopping REIT (LSR) fell 6.83% to 29p on the value of its net assets remaining flat in the six months to end-March Pretax profit plunged to £0.1m, from £1.7m.

Darty (DRTY) fell 5.87% to 74.13p despite a broadly positive Q4 trading statement. Total sales are up 3.5% reflecting market share gains, but lacklustre like-for-like sales and a cautious outlook for multimedia product sales weighs on sentiment.

Avocet Mining's (AVM) Q1 gold production totalled 17,011 oz at a cash cost of $1,113/oz. This compared with 19,503 oz produced in Q4 2014 at a cash cost of $1,052/oz. Its shares gained 5.9% to 4.85p.

Other stocks in the news included E-Therapeutics (ETX), SSP (SSPG), Hardide (HDD), Mothercare (MTC), Electrocomponents (ECM), InternetQ (INTQ), S&U (SUS), Dairy Crest Group (DCG), Shanks (SKS), Inchcape (INCH), Rightster Group (RSTR), Harworth (HWG), Safestyle (SFE) bwin.party (BPTY), MX Oil (MXO), Staffline (STAF), Henry Boot (BHY), Daily Mail and General Trust's (DMGT) and Lombard Risk Management (LRM).

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