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FTSE retreats after early gains

The FTSE 100 has closed 0.31 per cent higher at 3,817, following a promising open of 3,812 with late retreats wiping out earlier gains in the financial sector.

The blue-chip index opened higher on Wednesday’s close of 3,805 but soon slipped into the red, falling as low as 3,799 in early trades. By 12.10pm, it was up 2.27 per cent to 3,891.

Financials rallied with news that Prudential had beat industry forceasts to report a 17 percent increase in annual profit to £2.96 bn for 2008, boosted by growth in its Asia operations.

Pru shares were boosted despite the surprise departure of the firm’s chief executive Mark Tucker, rocketing 26 per cent to 318.75p by midday but by close gains had slowed, leaving shares 13 per cent higher at 285.50p.

Other insurers extended their gains with Legal & General closing 22 per cent higher at 38.10p. Standard Life was up 10 per cent to 192p by midday but finished down 4.5 per cent at 165.10p.

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