U.K. Stocks Gain; Standard Life Advances on Sales Report

U.K. stocks climbed to the highest level in three weeks, extending yesterday’s second-biggest rally of the year for the benchmark FTSE 100 Index, as commodity producers advanced.

BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group, the world’s biggest mining companies, each gained more than 1.5 percent as base metals rebounded. Standard Life Plc jumped the most in eight months as Scotland’s biggest insurer posted first-quarter sales that beat analysts’ estimates.

The FTSE 100 climbed 25.64 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,431.76 at the close in London, the highest level since April 2. The equity benchmark yesterday posted the biggest gain since Jan. 2 as corporate sales beat estimates. The broader FTSE All-Share Index also added 0.4 percent today, while Ireland’s ISEQ Index slipped 0.6 percent.

“We’ve seen a broadly helpful range of inventory numbers from the London Metal Exchange and that seems to be the trigger that has boosted the mining sector,” said Guy Foster, head of portfolio strategy at Brewin Dolphin Securities Ltd. in London. “The risk and reward of the sector has clearly improved.”

Seven companies including Aggreko Plc, Tesco Plc and Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc traded without the rights to their latest dividends, wiping 9.3 points from the FTSE 100.

German Sentiment

A German report showed business confidence in Europe’s largest economy fell for a second month in April. The Ifo institute in Munich said its business-climate index, based on a survey of 7,000 executives, dropped to 104.4 this month from 106.7 in March. Economists in a Bloomberg News survey had predicted a drop to 106.2.

A gauge of mining companies listed on the FTSE 350 Index gained 2.8 percent.

BHP, the world’s biggest commodity producer, rose 1.8 percent to 1,812.5 pence and Rio Tinto, the second-largest, added 3.2 percent to 3,000.5 pence. Kazakhmys Plc, Kazakhstan’s biggest copper producer, jumped 7.2 percent to 359 pence.

Standard Life rallied 8 percent to 380.7 pence, its largest increase since Aug. 14, after the Edinburgh-based insurer said long-term savings sales rose to 6.27 billion pounds ($9.6 billion) in the first quarter, beating the 5.36 billion-pound average estimate of analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Associated British Foods Plc declined 2.5 percent to 1,950 pence, the most since July 23, after Societe Generale SA downgraded the owner of the Primark discount-clothing chain to sell from hold, saying the stock’s valuation is entering “bubble territory.”

The shares surged 8.1 percent yesterday after reporting better-than-forecast sales, pushing its valuation to 20 times estimated earnings.

SABMiller Plc dropped 1 percent to 3,441 pence as Heineken NV, the world’s third-largest brewer, reported an unexpected decline in first-quarter sales and said organic volume and revenue will increase at a slower pace than previously anticipated.

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