Wood Group and Xcite shares among risers

Global markets made cautious gains today as US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke raised the prospect of more economic stimulus for the world’s biggest economy.

Investors took heart as Mr Bernanke said there was no “preset course” for ending the Fed’s vast money-printing drive, pushing London’s FTSE 100 Index up 15.6 points at 6,571.9.

Strong gains from mining stocks also helped move the blue-chip index higher after BHP Billiton reported record annual iron ore production.

BHP rose 2%, or 36p to £18.68, Glencore Xstrata climbed 7.4p to 271.95p and silver miner Fresnillo gained 26p to £10.42.

A profit warning from engineering firm Smiths Group knocked its shares by as much as 5% in early trading, but they recovered some of their losses to close down 14p at £13.77.

In the FTSE 250 Index, transport firm FirstGroup edged up 0.5p to 92.85p after saying recovery efforts were starting to bear fruit.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 included Marks & Spencer, 13.1p higher to 473.6p and Anglo American 33p firmer to £13.57.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Land Securities down 24.5p to £9.45, Imperial Tobacco off 56p to £21.97, Capita 19p down to £10.36 and Johnson Matthey 49p weaker to £27.57.

Barry Shepherd, of investment manager and financial planning specialist Brewin Dolphin in Aberdeen, noted Wood Group added 0.6% to £9.05, Weir Group climbed 1.1% to £21.87 and Xcite Energy closed 4.3% higher at 110.5p.

Fallers included STV Group, which shed 0.7% to 151.5p, while BG Group lost 0.8% to close at £11.81.