StockMarketWire.com - London stocks were firmly, following on from gains on Wall St and in Asia, as robust US new home sales data apparently lent support to the case for the Federal Reserve hiking rates in June. In UK, financial stocks were lead blue chips higher.

Lending titan Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) surged 3.12% to 252.95p, while HSBC (HSBA) gained 2.02% to 443.03p and Lloyds (LLOY) added 1.33% to 73.38p. Insurers traced Aviva (AV.), up 1.4% to 456.1p, and Standard Life (SL.), ahead 1.18% to 342.6p. More followed.

Markets are scrutinising US economic data sets as traders speculate on whether the Fed will lift rates in June, and the latest new homes sales data was seen to lend support to the case that the country can withstand higher interest rates. This comes against the backcloth of hawkish commentary from several Fed officials.

Soon after the open, FTSE 100 was up 39.66 points, or 0.64%, to 6258.92. FTSE 250 was up 62.71, or 0.37%, to 17,198.4. At 8.45am, WTI crude was ahead at USD49.3/bbl and Brent was up at USD49.26/bbl. Gold was firmly lower at USD1224/oz. Europe was ahead, too.

Blue-chip risers outnumbered fallers about 71 to 29, and of these about 18 were ahead by 1% or more. Marks and Spencer (MKS) dived 8.66% to 406.2p as its FY pretax profit fell to GBP488.8m, from GBP600.0m, in a mixed set of results. Market conditions continued to be challenging it said, as it lifted its dividend to 18.7p a share.

Meantime, US rates-sensitive utilities figured higher in the wake of National Grid (NG.), up 1.02% to 1001.75p. Oilies were guided by BP (BP.), up 1.1% to 361.75p, and Shell (RDSA), up 1.06% to 1672.5p. Miners were generally firmer, but off the financials' pace.

To the downside, property was in particular focus. Taylor Wimpey (TW.) led house builders as it ebbed 1.45% to 207.25p, and Barratt (BDEV) shed 1.13% to 592.75p. Commercial property softened behind Land Securities (LAND), lower 0.58% to 1195p.

OTHER NEWS IN PROFILE

Anheuser-Busch InBev has welcomed clearance for its recommended combination with SABMiller (SAB), up 0.28% to 4274.5p, from the European Commission.

Dixons Carphone (DC.), up 0.91% to 452.2p, sees headline pretax profits to be at GBP445m-GBP450m for the year, in the top half of previous guidance.

Shaftesbury (SHB), down 0.56% to 934.25p, said its H1 pretax profit has fallen to GBP80.1m, from GBP180.2m, with revenue at GBP53.4m, from GBP48.4m. EPRA net asset value per share came in at 893p, up 24p over the six-month period. It was up 118p on the year.

BIGGER MOVERS

Independent Resources (IRG), up 52.38% to 0.08p, has made more substantial progress in improving its financial position through reducing its indebtedness by a further GBP305,000 to about GBP230,000.

WSP Global has made a recommended cash offer Sweett Group (CSG), up 46.74% to 33.75p, at premium 35p a share and valuing the latter company as about GBP24m.

Judges Scientific (JDG), down 20.63% to 1442.5p, has warned its interim results will be hit by sluggish orders, noting it had not seen a pick-up in orders.

ECONOMIC NEWS

US new-home sales in April surged to their highest level in more than eight years, a report showed.

LONDON HIGHLIGHTS

Anglo Asian Mining (AAZ), down 10.87% to 10.25p, said its FY total revenues rose to USD78.1m, from USD68.0m, with pretax losses reduced to USD8.9m, from USD14.4m.

Imaginatik (IMTK), down 8% to 2.88p, has proposed raising about GBP2.1m via placing and open offer. Proceeds would go to strengthening the company's balance sheet and funding business development investment costs and sales and consulting capacity.

HSS Hire (HSS), down 7.96% to 92.5p, said its Q1 trading was in line with views. Revenue in the 14 weeks to April 2 was up 16.3% to GBP84.3m.

Reach4entertainment (R4E), down 9.52% to 2.38p, has swung to a FY pretax profit of GBP4.5m, from a loss of GBP5.1m, as it reported a strong trading performance with the successful restructuring of the business. Revenue was ahead at GBP85.9m, from GBP83.3m.

Aurasian Minerals (AUM), up 8.33% to 0.65p, has now received acceptances from all of the shareholders of Moroccan Minerals in relation to the offer announced April 18.

Serco (SRP), up 7.43% to 98.3p, has enjoyed a stronger-than-anticipated financial performance in the first four months of the year, citing the successful outcome of a number of commercial negotiations. It sees its underlying FY trading profit ahead of market views.

Paysafe Group (PAYS), up 5.23% to 410.2p, said the positive momentum from FY 2015 has continued through the first four months on 2016. It sees FY adjusted EBITDA at USD270m-USD276m, compared to market consensus of USD260m.

Other stocks in the news included Nahl (NAH), Polypipe (PLP), Zoopla (ZPLA), Oncimmune Holdings (ONC),LiDCO (LID), Hilton Food (HFG), Escher (ESCH), Babcock (BAB) and Empiric Student Property (ESP).