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FTSE 100 posts strong gains as all-time high hoves into view

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Close, but no cigar … Footsie raced to within a couple of points of 6,900 this morning before receding to 6,874.

That was still a respectable 44 point gain on a day when a number of ex-div stocks were weighing on the index.

Hargreaves Lansdown (LON:HL.) was another millstone, despite a 7% profit jump to £210mln. Worries over the Scotland vote and the changes to the UK savings market knocked almost 6% off the shares.

Plant hire group Ashtead (LON:AHT) was the best blue-chip performer, after it raised full year guidance as first quarter profit rose by a third with business booming in both the UK and US. The shares climbed 3.6%.

Among the mid-caps, Booker (LON:BOK) was dented by news that German retailer had dumped its stake in the cash-and-carry operator.

Among the small caps, US oil producer Nostra Terra (LON:NTOG) jumped by 10.7% as it bought a working interest in 6,100 net acres in the White Buffalo prospect in Wyoming, where the total recoverable potential is up to 13 mln barrels.

Electronic invoicing leader Tungsten (LON:TUNG) finished up 26.7.5p at 371.5p after completing a placing of shares at 340p each, raising £12mln.

Late yesterday the company announced the acquisition of DocuSphere, which provides accounts payable automation services.

Solo Oil (LON:SOLO) advanced 7% as it confirmed drilling has started on what could be one of Britain’s biggest onshore oil and gas prospects in several decades.

The Horse Hill-1 well, near Gatwick, will be key to unlocking an estimated mean 671mln barrels and 456bn cubic feet of gas.

As well as Solo, Regency Mining (LON:RGM) has binding agreements in place to acquire 10% and 5% respectively with other stakeholders David Lenigas’s UK Oil & Gas Investments(LON:UKOG), Stellar Resources (LON:STG), Doriemus (LON:DOR) and Alba Minerals (LON:ALBA).

Magnolia Petroleum (LON: MAGP) jumped 6% as it received US$1mln for consultancy advice it gave to an international group buying a project in the Oklahoma oil and gas region.

On the downside API Group (LON:API), a manufacturer of specialist foils and packaging materials, tumbled 11% after a profit warning.

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