FTSE rises despite bank downgrades

LSERatings downgrades for six of the world's largest banks failed to unsettle the financial sector or the wider London market.

Citing the challenging financial markets, Fitch lowered its long-term rating on Barclays to 'A' from 'AA-' and took similar action on Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse.
Barclays shares were 0.6p higher at 171.1p, while the FTSE 100 Index was 28.5 points stronger at 5429.2 during thin pre-Christmas trading.

Elsewhere in the banking sector, Royal Bank of Scotland was 0.2p higher at 19.8p, HSBC added 3.3p to 485.75p and Lloyds Banking Group was flat at 24.1p.

Meanwhile, Sports Direct International shares were 4% higher after it withdrew its interest in buying the UK's biggest outdoor retailer Blacks Leisure.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley's Sports Direct chain, which owns 22.5% of Blacks, had said on Tuesday it was among the interested parties but later ruled itself out. While its shares were 7.45p higher at 197.45p, Blacks slumped another 0.6p to 1.6p, giving it a market value of just £1.4 million.

The stricken firm, which owns 98 Blacks outlets, 208 Millets stores and the Peter Storm and Eurohike brands, put itself up for sale earlier this month as it struggles under a £36 million debt pile amid dire trading.

© 2011 Press Association
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