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London’s FTSE 100 climbs ahead of Easter break

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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By Sruthi Shankar and Shristi Achar A

(Reuters) -UK’s blue-chip index rose on Thursday, gaining for a third consecutive week, as a rally in commodity stocks and signs of resilience in the domestic economy outweighed concerns about a U.S. economic slowdown.

The FTSE 100 rose 1.0%, hitting its highest level in over three weeks and ending the holiday-shortened week about 1.4% higher, with support from gains in oil and gas, financial and healthcare stocks.

Heavyweight Shell rose 2.3% as the energy giant forecast higher liquefied natural gas (LNG) output in the first quarter.

Banks rose 1.5%, with lender HSBC Plc’s 1.6% gain offering the biggest boost.

“Markets are getting more relaxed about where interest rates might peak, and a number of sector-specific factors is helping the UK, particularly the banks recovering and the oils (stocks) seeing profit upgrades,” said Andrew Bell, chief executive at Witan Investment Trust.

Wall Street’s main indexes, however, fell as the latest labour market data pointed to slowing economic growth due to rapid interest rate hikes. U.S. monthly payrolls data will be released on Friday when most major markets will be closed for Good Friday. [.N]

The midcap FTSE 250 index rose 1.1%, with London-listed shares of travel firm TUI leading gains with its 12.0% rise after CEO Sebastian Ebel said summer 2023 travel activity is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Signs of cooling inflation and a still robust UK labour market have raised hopes the economy will avoid a recession this year but worries about a weakening U.S. economy and banking turmoil have weighed on sentiment recently.

UK homebuilder stocks rose 1.5% as mortgage lender Halifax said house prices rose for the third month in a row in March, up 0.8% from February compared with economists’ forecast of a 0.3% drop.

Among other major movers, Robert Walters Plc fell 2.5%, after the recruiter flagged persistent market challenges and said recruitment in the technology industry was hit by layoffs.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar and Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru; Editing by Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Krishna Chandra Eluri and Jonathan Oatis)