London close: FTSE takes pause after week studded with volatility and caution

Andrew Schonberg Sharecast | 17 Mar, 2017 17:06 - Updated: 17:06 | | |

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Stocks in London spent Friday locked in sideways trade to finish marginally higher, relaxing at the end of a week studded with volatility and caution linked to interest rates, Brexit and Netherlands' elections.

At the closing bell the FTSE 100 was up 0.12% or 9.01 points to 7,424.96 and the FTSE 250 was ahead 0.36% to 19,094.91. Both indices managed to clinch fresh record closing highs, by the slimmest of margins.

Across the Atlantic Ocean, Wall St's equities indices were barely moved with a very slight negative tone. Across the English Channel, key European indices posted slim gains.

Spreadex financial analyst Connor Campbell said investors were content to let the market settle at yesterday's levels.

"After all the excitement in the last few days, coupled with an empty economic diary, it is understandable that the market has been running on fumes this Friday," said Campbell.

The worry is that, at their current highs, the Western indices are now lacking a sense of purpose, especially with the week's Federal Reserve meeting in the rear-view mirror."

IG chief market analyst Chris Beauchamp commented similarly, characterising the week as meandering to a close after its slow start and cut-and-thrust middle.

"Around the world markets seem to have paused for breath, with the focus shifting now away from the Fed towards the French elections, which are moving upon us at speed," he said.

"Equities remain buoyant, even if they have failed to move much higher in the two days since the Fed meeting."

He said the upcoming week was expected to be quiet, although UK CPI and retail sales would mean Brexit-diminished sterling was a focus of attention.

In a session largely spare of blue-chip news, blue-chip risers included insurers, house builders and resources, while fallers took in banks, commercial property and utilities.

Gains by Admiral, Barratt Developments, Antofagasta and Shell were visible, while Standard Chartered, Intu Properties and United Utilities all sauntered lower.

Pharma giant AstraZeneca ticked lower on news US regulators have rejected its new drug for high potassium levels.

Prudential was on the front foot after being upgraded to 'neutral' by JP Morgan Cazenove, while Weir Group benefited from an upgrade by Barclays.

In other London news, property group Berkeley rallied as it said full year pre-tax profits are expected to be at the top end of analysts' expectations.

Stocks brokerage Panmure Gordon rocketed after agreeing to be bought by Atlas Merchant Capital - the private equity firm of former Barclays boss Bob Diamond - and Qatari investment vehicle QInvest for around £15.5m in cash.

Tullow Oil slumped after announcing plans to carry out a £607m rights issue at a 45% discount to its last closing price as it feels it is the "right time to get our balance sheet in order".

Hochschild Mining fell after chairman Eduardo Hochschild sold almost £42m worth of stock.

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