Pick of the early market news

The FTSE 100 picked up 0.36% yesterday, rising to 5,937. Fresnillo and Royal Bank of Scotland surged 6.08% and 5.09% respectively. However RSA Insurance Group gave up -4.89% and Morrisons slipped -2.98%.

The German Dax fell -0.50% while the French Cac 40 flatlined. The Dow Jones ended Thursday 0.36% higher at 12,984 points while Asian stocks finished Friday slightly higher.
The big company news today is all about Lloyds Banking Group. The 41% owned-by-the-taxpayer bank made a £3.5bn loss up to the end of 31 December having had to put aside £3.2bn for cover payment protection (PPI) insurance claims. Lloyds is also warning of declining 2012 revenues.

Lloyds total net losses amount to £2.8bn. That compares with £320m loss the previous year. So the taxpayer is still substantially down on its investment: Lloyds shares currently sell for 36p, close to half what the 63p price the government originally paid for its stake.

However, take out the PPI sting and other one-off expenses, and the £2.7bn profit for 2011 is more encouraging.

"We remain confident that our medium-term financial targets, as set out in our June 2011 Strategic Review are achievable over time, although, as we anticipated in our Q3 2011 Interim Management Statement," said Lloyds' chief executive, Antonio Horta-Osorio.

Next, European real estate player Hammerson. Pre-tax profits have come in at £346.3m compared with £620.2m for 2010. There was growth of 2.5% in group like-for-like net rental income (UK Retail: 4.6%) and the company has upped its final dividend by 5.7%. Total dividend for the year of 16.6 pence per share (2010: 15.95 pence).

"These results prove the benefit of high quality assets combined with active management, which have delivered good income and capital growth in a challenging environment," said Hammerson boss David Atkins.

"In addition, we have enhanced the prospective returns from the portfolio through targeted acquisitions and development activity, but retain a strong, flexible financing structure which will allow us to take advantage of further investment opportunities."

Lastly, Rightmove. The property website operator claims revenue increased 19% to £97.0m (2010: £81.6m) with underlying operating profits increased 23% to £69.4m (2010: £56.6m). Underlying basic earnings per share climbed 26% to 50.3p (2010: 39.8p).

The company claims 2011 says nderlying operating profit was up 23% to £69.4m (2010: £56.6m) "driven by strong organic revenue growth coupled with a lower increase in operating costs year on year."

Managing director Ed Williams said that with "further strong growth in 2012, there is every prospect that this will be the year when the property industry's spend on advertising on the internet will exceed that on local newspapers for the first time."

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