LONDON -- The London market started a touch softer Monday morning, but it wasn't long before buyers appeared and prices generally moved higher. The FTSE 100 began with a 34-point fall, but turned that into a gain of 33.1 points to 6591.1.

"There's not going to be much pressure either way ahead of

Tuesday's Budget," commented one leading market maker.

The morning's major talking point was the government-commissioned review into competition in the U.K. banking industry. The harsher-than-expected report recognizes that the market is becoming increasingly competitive, but the U.K. consumer still doesn't get value for money and the banks are making excessive profits.

What did this mean for bank shares? Not a lot. Since most of the banks were sharply lower on Friday in anticipation of the review, losses were not as bad as initially feared, and in some cases falls were replaced by net gains.

Lloyds TSB

was down 9p to 592 (US$9.29).

Barclays

(BCS) - Get Report

turned an early fall of 26p into a gain of 12p to stand at 15.15 pounds.

HSBC

, underpinned to a certain extent by a firm Hong Kong market, was just a penny lower to 733p, but

Standard Chartered

fell 33p to 830.

Pharmaceuticals were mixed.

Glaxo Wellcome

(GLX)

edged forward 8p to 17.88 pounds, but merger partner

SmithKline Beecham

(SBH) - Get Report

softened a couple of pence to 826.5 and

AstraZeneca

fell 31p to 25.50 pounds before rallying to stand 19p higher on balance at 26.00 pounds.

Compass Group

rose 20p to 765 on news that the company has won a US$200 million contract to supply food and drinks to the Detroit Airport Terminal, while

Scottish & Newcastle

added 7p to 409 following the agreement with

Danone

of France to combine all of their beer businesses.

In techs,

Logica

gained 103p to 23.40 pounds on its new customer service agreement with

British Energy

, while

Dataflex

rose 12p to 414.5 following new product orders from cable company

NTL

(NTLI)

.

Baltimore Technologies

fell 115p to 107.85 pounds, but

Psion

TST Recommends

was up 40p to 53.70 pounds. Favorable press comment boosted

Durlacher Corporation

247p to 28.97 pounds and

Arm Holdings

(ARMHY)

rose 76p to 41.50 pounds. The

Techmark

index of leading tech stocks was 36.3 higher to 4878.6.

Most of the Continental stock markets climbed early Monday, with the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt up 92.95 to 7803.87 and the

CAC 40

in Paris 80.76 higher to 6385.04.

In Frankfurt, technology and telecoms appeared to be back in the driver's seat, with

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

climbing 3 euros to 89.50 (US$87.02),

Siemens

(SMAWY)

9.01 euros higher to 133.00 and

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

up 39.08 euros to 940.08.

Carmaker

BMW

was up 0.70 euros to 30.69 amid speculation the company may itself be taken over after selling off its troubled Rover unit. Other automobile makers were mixed, with

DaimlerChrysler

(DCX)

off 0.15 euros to 68.89 and

Volkswagen

(VLKAY)

up 0.21 euros to 44.20.

In other parts of the Continent, merger rumors were helping push telcos higher.

France Telecom

(FTE)

was up 8.80 euros to 195.80 after apparently expressing interest in Germany's

MobilCom

, and

Telefonica

(TEF) - Get Report

was 1.23 euros higher to 28.73 amid speculation that

British Telecom

wants to take over the Spanish company.