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FTSE 100 close to record high as pound slips

London Stock ExchangeLondon stocks surged on Friday, driving the FTSE 100 to within a whisker of its all-time high.

The FTSE 100 finished up 23.58 points or 0.31% at 7,724.55, up almost 3% over the week and just shy of the record close of 7,730. It hit an intra-day high of  7,792.56 in mid-January.

Shares rose as the pound failed to hold onto its earlier gains against the dollar, finishing around 0.2% higher at 1.3551. It gave up earlier ground on the euro to end flat at 1.1344.

The surge represents the seventh successive week of gains and followed Thursday’s decision by the Bank of England to keep interest rates on hold,

BoE deputy governor Ben Broadbent denied that the central bank was sending out mixed messages on interest rates: “We have given some guidance that we are going to raise rates over the next few years but that has never been a promise that we are going to raise rates at a particular point in time,” he told an interviewer.

“If you read what we said in the early part of the year it was clearly a conditional statement. It says if the economy turns out in line with the forecast then interest rate rises may come sooner than people expected.”

Market analysts Chris Beauchamp at IG said: “Equities continue to exhibit signs of strength, buoyed by a strong earnings season and valuations that have reminded investors of the compelling fundamental outlook.

“Investors should take heart from the resilience equities have shown as geopolitical tensions rise, and signs that stock can weather the storms of Iran, North Korea and others should encourage fresh flows into equity markets.

“As earnings season diminishes in importance, markets will cast around for other reasons to worry, but the solid performance of equities in recent weeks should send a signal to investors that the bull market is reasserting itself.”

Among notable corporate announcements,  Zoopla and PrimeLocation owner ZPG soared after agreeing to be bought by US private equity firm Silver Lake Management for 490p per share in cash, or £2.2bn.

Wood Group gained after stating in an update that it was seeing good momentum.

Barclays shares advanced 0.65p to 214.45p, even as chief executive Jes Staley was fined £642,430 by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for his attempt to unmask a whistleblower.

Interserve, which is selling its stake in the Haymarket development in Edinburgh, fell as the City watchdog’s enforcement division launched an investigation into the company’s handling of inside information and its disclosures to the market over its troublesome exit from the energy-from-waste business.

ITV was lifted 7.5% by strong broker write-ups following its results on Thursday and tips that it could become a takeover target.



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