London close: Stocks remain positive amid Brexit deal scepticism
London stocks had pulled back from earlier gains by the close on Thursday, but remained above the waterline, as the pound rose against the greenback after the UK and the European Union reached a deal on Brexit.
The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.2% at 7,182.32, and the FTSE 250 was 0.16% higher at 20,221.11.
Sterling, meanwhile, was last 0.11% stronger on the dollar at $1.2846, but weakened 0.36% against the euro to last trade at EUR 1.1548.
"Where there is a will, there is a deal - we have one,” said European Commissioner Jean-Claude Juncker earlier.
“It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions.
“I recommend that European Council endorses this deal," he said via social media.”
Sterling had come within touching distance of $1.30 during the day, hitting a fresh five-month high of $1.2990.
However, the currency pared gains after Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party insisted its position had not changed, having earlier released a statement saying that it could not support the deal with the current customs terms.
The DUP also said there was a "lack of clarity on VAT".
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who still needed to get the deal through the UK and European parliaments, said on Twitter that he had agreed "a great new deal that takes back control".
Analysts were sceptical, however, with Oanda senior market analyst Craig Erlam saying that anyone hoping the process would be straightforward now was “kidding themselves”.
“With Labour whipping for a second referendum on the deal and the Lib Dems unlikely to support anything, there is still a good chance we're heading for an extension and election, in order to get this over the line.
“Nothing in Brexit is ever simple.”
Erlam said it was going to be a “wild weekend”, which would make the market open next week more unpredictable.
“If the deal gets through Parliament, the pound could perform extremely well at the start of next week, despite having already rebounded more than 8% from the lows a month ago.”
Han Tan, market analyst at FXTM, said sterling was “sure to unwind” recent gains if the deal failed to get the go-ahead from parliament on Saturday.
“However, a request for yet another Brexit extension, if granted, may mitigate sterling’s fall at around the 1.22 mark against the US dollar," he said.
In equity markets, banks fell back after earlier rallying on Brexit optimism, with Barclays down 0.16% and Lloyds Banking Group off 0.11%.
Property remained solid, however, with group British Land rising 1.65%, housebuilder Persimmon up 1.37% and peer Taylor Wimpey ahead 0.98%.
Rentokil Initial advanced 2.44% after it posted its highest level of quarterly organic growth for more than a decade, and said it was on course to meet full-year expectations.
Consumer goods giant Unilever finished 0.98% higher, even after its third-quarter sales came in weaker than expected, while Domino's Pizza Group was in the green by 4.21% after it said it would be exiting international markets following a "disappointing" third quarter.
Premier Oil managed to keep its head above water, finishing up 0.777% after saying it had encountered gas at its Tolmount East well in the UK Southern North Sea.
WH Smith surged 5.84% as it announced the acquisition of US travel retailer Marshall Retail Group for $400m, and posted a 7% jump in full-year headline pre-tax profit.
On the downside, building materials group Grafton tumbled 10.07% after it warned that full-year profit would be below market expectations.
Price comparison website Moneysupermarket slumped 10.31% after it reported a rise in third-quarter revenue thanks to a solid performance from its home services segment, but said the money business underperformed.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 274.90p 2.73%
Prudential (PRU) 1,498.00p 2.64%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 453.00p 2.44%
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 1,057.50p 2.37%
Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 7,500.00p 2.32%
3i Group (III) 1,083.00p 2.27%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 218.80p 1.81%
Next (NXT) 6,746.00p 1.68%
British Land Company (BLND) 631.80p 1.65%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,611.00p 1.63%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Mondi (MNDI) 1,533.50p -5.02%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 336.50p -4.98%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,444.00p -3.55%
BAE Systems (BA.) 541.60p -2.77%
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,581.00p -2.23%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,400.00p -2.08%
Severn Trent (SVT) 2,250.00p -2.05%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 872.60p -1.96%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 731.20p -1.64%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 5,030.00p -1.45%
FTSE 250 - Risers
WH Smith (SMWH) 2,210.00p 5.84%
Mercantile Investment Trust (The) (MRC) 229.00p 4.81%
Restaurant Group (RTN) 150.70p 4.36%
Domino's Pizza Group (DOM) 277.00p 4.21%
Dunelm Group (DNLM) 862.50p 4.17%
Hill & Smith Holdings (HILS) 1,315.00p 4.03%
Mediclinic International (MDC) 384.90p 3.89%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 499.30p 3.83%
Kainos Group (KNOS) 497.00p 3.80%
Vesuvius (VSVS) 357.80p 3.23%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 347.10p -10.31%
Grafton Group Units (GFTU) 781.50p -10.07%
Rathbone Brothers (RAT) 2,170.00p -8.82%
Bank of Georgia Group (BGEO) 1,331.00p -4.11%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 193.80p -3.87%
Vivo Energy (VVO) 120.00p -3.69%
Howden Joinery Group (HWDN) 560.60p -3.24%
Marshalls (MSLH) 721.00p -2.57%
Ibstock (IBST) 256.40p -2.22%
Avast (AVST) 369.40p -2.17%