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FTSE gains as commodity stocks rise, PartyGaming up

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Apr 18 (Reuters) Britain's top share index rose on Tuesday thanks to soaring commodity prices boosting energy and resource stocks while PartyGaming gained on a jump in quarterly sales.

Investors returned from the Easter break to find oil above a barrel and while worries about its effect on corporate profit weighed on other European markets, Britain's heavily weighted oil stocks such as BP gained.

Crude has jumped to near record highs on concerns about possible military action against Iran hitting supplies. UK shares are seeing the benefit at the moment but analysts believe a sustained increase in the oil price will hit the wider market.

''The earnings outlook in Europe is rosier than many investors think, but the price of oil remains a problem,'' ING strategists said in a note.

Gold at a fresh 25-year high and copper prices jumping 5 percent to a new high buoyed mining stocks, with BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto adding almost 3 percent and Antofagasta rising 1.6 percent.

The FTSE 100 rose 0.2 percent or 11 points to 6,040.6 points, having closed above 6,000 points for the ninth straight session on Thursday.

The index has surged to five-year highs this year thanks to bid activity, solid corporate earnings and relatively cheap valuations, but a lack of momentum and rising bond yields could be beginning to weigh on sentiment.

PartyGaming, the world's biggest online gaming group, added 1.3 percent after it said sales jumped 54 percent in the first quarter after signing up a record 23 percent more poker players.

BAA also added 2.1 percent after rejecting a fresh takeover approach from a consortium led by Goldman Sachs . The airports operator is also fending off a hostile takeover bid from Spanish construction firm Grupo Ferrovial.

Among other leading gainers, British Land rose almost 4 percent as dealers said Merrill Lynch had raised its rating to buy.

REUTERS PV SND1435

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