London Stocks Slightly Lower in Quiet May Day Trading; Mining Stocks Rise

LONDON (TheDeal) -- With most major markets closed for the May 1 holiday on Friday, Tokyo, Sydney and London have been the focus of attention. The FTSE 100 was down 0.09% at 6,954.25.

On such a quiet day, a little good news from China can make a big difference. The Chinese manufacturing sector purchasing managers index came in at 50.1 for April, just above the line that separates growth from decline. That helped stocks in the resources sector, which are heavily represented in both Australia's leading ASX 200 index and the FTSE 100.

As a result, Sydney finished the day up 0.42% at 5,814 -- breaking the downward trend of the previous few days. The jury's still out over whether the Reserve Bank of Australia will keep interest rates on hold at its meeting next Tuesday. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 finished the day up 0.06% at 19,531.63, despite earlier weakness, largely on the back of a 5% improvement in auto sales in April.

Meanwhile, in London, mining stocks Anglo American (AAUKY), Rio Tinto (RIO) and BHP Billiton (BHP) were among the biggest risers, up 3.98%, 3.60% and 2.66% respectively.

London was also boosted by results from Lloyds Banking (LYG), in which the government still holds a minority stake. The bank took a £660 million ($1.0 billion) hit from the sale of its stake in TSB Banking (TSBBY) to Spain's Banco Sabadell (BNDSY) earlier this year.

Lloyds was required to carve out some 630 branches to create TSB as a condition of its rescue by the government in 2009. And a large part of this morning's pretax charge is the cost of migrating TSB off the group's IT systems. Excluding TSB, Lloyds underlying profit increased by 21% to £2.2 billion. Lloyds was up 3.85% at 80.6 pence a share.

But macroeconomic news held London back. The Markit purchasing managers index for the U.K. manufacturing sector dropped unexpectedly to 51.9 for April. With a general election only days away, the government will not be able to claim much success for its efforts to boost manufacturing and reduce reliance on the service sector. 

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