London close: Markets finish higher as investors wait for Brexit news
London stocks finished in the green on Thursday, helped along by a softer pound and some well-received corporate releases as investors awaited the EU's decision on a Brexit extension.
The FTSE 100 ended the session 0.93% firmer at 7,328.25, as the pound fell 0.81% against the dollar to last trade at $1.2807, and was off 0.51% on the euro at €1.1541.
“At present it looks like the EU will only offer the extension once the UK says what it’s for, while the government doesn’t really want to commit itself either way until it knows the length of any extension,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com.
“It’s also been reported the cabinet is split over whether to go all-in with an election, or seek to get this deal through Parliament.”
Away from Brexit, the European Central Bank kept all its main policy settings unchanged, with Thursday's governing council meeting set to be the last for its current chief, Mario Draghi.
“The timing of today’s meeting could not be better, since it comes after a raft of PMIs that have confirmed the lack of economic growth in the eurozone, even if the figures were not abysmal,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, earlier.
“If Ms Lagarde fails to take up Mr Draghi’s dovish mantle, investors may find themselves wishing the kindly Italian was back in charge, since there is little to encourage optimism in European economic data at present.”
In corporate news, AstraZeneca shares were 5.55% higher after the pharmaceuticals giant lifted its sales guidance for the second quarter as it posted a rise in third-quarter sales.
Relx was ahead 3.98%, as the business publisher backed its full-year guidance and said underlying revenue grew 4% in the first nine months of the year.
Kaz Minerals racked up healthy gains of 5.07% as it reported a jump in third-quarter copper production and said production for the full year was expected to be at the upper end of its guidance range.
AJ Bell closed ahead 1.08% after the investment platform reported an increase in assets under management and customer numbers for the first full year of trading since its IPO.
On the downside, Royal Bank of Scotland fell 3.34% after saying it swung to a third-quarter loss after making a £900m provision for payment protection insurance.
In the three months to 30 September, the bank made an operating loss before tax of £8m versus a £961m profit in the same period a year ago.
Rolls-Royce was down 3.39%, ITV lost 2.21%, Ferguson was off 0.09%, Balfour Beatty slipped 0.26%, and Coats Group slid 1.65% as all of those stocks went ex-dividend.
FTSE 100 - Risers
AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,308.10p 5.55%
Aveva Group (AVV) 4,112.00p 4.95%
Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 495.00p 4.87%
Relx plc (REL) 1,840.00p 3.98%
BAE Systems (BA.) 554.40p 3.32%
Polymetal International (POLY) 1,220.00p 3.17%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,789.50p 2.72%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 1,317.50p 2.61%
Fresnillo (FRES) 655.80p 2.60%
3i Group (III) 1,106.50p 2.60%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
NMC Health (NMC) 2,513.00p -4.81%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 702.00p -3.39%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 226.25p -3.34%
Evraz (EVR) 379.20p -3.21%
ITV (ITV) 134.65p -2.21%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,119.00p -1.75%
Kingfisher (KGF) 215.10p -1.65%
Land Securities Group (LAND) 941.00p -1.36%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 5,854.00p -1.20%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 646.20p -0.98%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Contour Global (GLO) 202.00p 7.10%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 474.60p 5.07%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 494.00p 4.79%
Vesuvius (VSVS) 384.60p 4.66%
Kainos Group (KNOS) 518.00p 4.44%
Softcat (SCT) 950.00p 3.43%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 115.15p 3.36%
Intermediate Capital Group (ICP) 1,485.00p 3.34%
Renishaw (RSW) 3,478.00p 3.27%
Bakkavor Group (BAKK) 128.40p 2.72%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
RHI Magnesita N.V. (DI) (RHIM) 3,432.00p -5.56%
Restaurant Group (RTN) 136.10p -5.35%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 403.00p -4.62%
Rathbone Brothers (RAT) 2,140.00p -4.04%
Pets at Home Group (PETS) 210.60p -4.01%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 183.75p -3.80%
Capita (CPI) 164.95p -3.76%
Grafton Group Units (GFTU) 781.00p -3.10%
Polypipe Group (PLP) 451.60p -3.00%
PayPoint (PAY) 891.00p -2.73%