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FTSE 100 heads into Easter on a high

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The Footsie finished a shortened trading week higher ahead of the four-day break for Easter.

Its rise came in spite of a 3.8% fall from alcoholic drinks giant Diageo (LON:DGE), which had taken the fizz out of the blue chips earlier in the day.

The Johnnie Walker-to-Smirnoff maker’s third quarter trading update left a sour taste after it revealed a 1.3% decline in organic sales.

That was against expectations of a 2% rise in sales, largely due to a 19% fall in sales in Asia Pacific from a year earlier, which more than offset an impressive 27.7% increase in sales in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The emerging markets volatility continued to take its toll on the group.

Oriel Securities noted that the first three months of the year typically accounts for only 18% of annual sales, so things could be worse. But the market was jolted by the update, prompting a 4% decline in the share price.

The index passed 6,600 to finish the week at 6,625, a daily rise of 41 points or 0.6%.

Barclays (LON:BARC) was among the risers, up 3.8% at 246.5p after chief executive Antony Jenkins hinted at big job losses at the bank in a leaked memo to staff.

Jenkins reportedly ruled out a retreat from investment banking, but warned that the shake-up could cost thousands more jobs at the division.

Fellow lenders Lloyds Banking Group (LON:LLOY) made a 2% gain, while retailers had another good day, with Marks & Spencer (LON:MKS) and Sports Direct (LON:SPD) up around 1.5% each ahead of Easter, which is an important shopping period for retailers.

B&Q owner Kingfisher (LON:KGF) however was on the losing side ahead of a busy weekend of DIY for many Britons.

In the small-cap sector, dual-listed Bullabulling Gold (LON:BLG) soared after receiving a takeover offer from Australian-listed Norton Gold Fields.

Shareholders are invited to sit tight while the board considers the merits of the offer, which has been pitched at a price of 7 cents a share, a 30% premium to the closing share price of Bullabulling on the Australian Stock Exchange on 16 April.

“The Bullabulling Gold Project has significant funding challenges which a small company such as Bullabulling will have ongoing difficulties managing," claimed Dr Dianmin Chen, chief executive officer of Norton Gold Fields.

“By accepting the offer, Bullabulling shareholders will remove their exposure to these major financing risks and the likely continued dilution in the value of their shareholdings,” he added.

Norton said shareholders representing 6.6% of the issued share capital of Bullabulling have already indicated their intention to accept the offer.

Norton has pounced on its fellow Aussie gold miner after Bullabulling started drilling at its namesake gold project in Western Australia earlier this month as it moves towards producing a definitive feasibility study.

The shares jumped 25% to 3.75p.

Caza Oil & Gas (LON:CAZA) jumped 7% to 9.9p when it revealed another bumper well result from the Bone Springs play in New Mexico, with the West Copperline 29 Fed 2H flowing at a rate of 1,366 barrels oil equivalent per day.

This is the second development well on the West Copperline property, and follows the equally successful wells on the property.

AIM heavyweight Mulberry (LON:MUL) recovered from early falls to 709p, a decline of just 0.5p, after it issued its second profit warning in three months and unveiled a plan for cheaper handbags to combat flagging sales.

Anglo Asian Mining (LON:AAZ) and blur Group (LON:BLUR) were among the fallers. The former, a gold miner in Azerbaijan, lowered production forecasts for this year, while the latter, an s-commerce specialist, revised its full-year revenue expectations due to delayed revenue recognition on a number of project bookings in 2013.


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