Byline: MALCOLM WITHERS
MILITARY success in Iraq boosted London shares to a two-month high as the benchmark FTSE 100 index surged as much as 116 points. Equities in New York are expected to open higher after key oil installations and ports fell into coalition hands Since the end of last week, the London market has soared 18%. Oils, financials and pharmaceuticals led the charge of the FTSE 100, which later settled 87.3 points up at 3853 as 1.3 billion shares changed hands.
The double-witching hour led to relatively modest volatility in Footsie futures contracts as the index traded within a 20-point range.
When it ended, the Footsie immediately headed upwards, partly on optimism that troops may reach Baghdad within four days.
The smell of burning oil in the Middle East as oil wells were set alight could almost be detected in the City as shares in the sector took off.
Shell added 9p to 390p while BP's massive share buyback continued as it purchased for cancellation another 10 million shares at between 408p and 414p.
The buyback looked wise after BP added 111/2p to 4283/4p.
Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt bowed to pressure from 6000 High Street pharmacists and expressed doubts about deregulation as proposed by the Office of Fair Trading.
Pharmacy chain Boots liked the prescription and rose 121/2p to 5731/2p while Alliance Unichem gained 193/4p to 435p.
But the main impact was on the bid-happy supermarkets sector. Many of them were hoping to get their hands on pharmacy departments and margins would have been extremely good. J Sainsbury led the bluechip fallers in this sector, slipping 7p to 230p as ABN Amro downgraded to hold from buy.
Wm Morrison, looking as though it will not succeed in …