British shares soared to record highs on Friday, underpinned by stronger financials stocks, with a wave of positive economic data lifting equities across the globe. The FTSE 100 index of top UK blue chips rose 0.3 percent to 7,568.9 points by 0916 GMT, while the domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 index inched up 0.1 percent. Global stocks hit a record high on Friday after upbeat data on US manufacturing and employment and buoyant European factory growth boosted investor optimism.
“On the FTSE, shares are rising as part of a global cyclical turnaround and sterling weakness is increasingly less important,” said Neil Wilson of ETX Capital. Britain holds a general election next Thursday that is likely to have an impact on how the country tackles talks on its exit from the European Union.
Some opinion polls point to a tighter-than-expected race, with the Conservative Party of Prime Minister Theresa May seeing its lead over the opposition Labour party dwindling. Financials were the biggest boost to the FTSE, adding 17 points to the index with top banks HSBC and Barclays and insurer Prudential all up over 1 percent.
EasyJet rose 0.8 percent after HSBC lifted its target on the stock, saying the budget carrier could be a marginal beneficiary from British Airways’ power outage. Analysts at HSBC also said the low-cost airline industry would continue to improve structurally.
Meanwhile, British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines rose 1.7 percent.
Acacia Mining topped mid-caps, up 5.6 percent, after it maintained its full-year production guidance. The stock has lost a third of its value after a Tanzanian government investigation report found last month that the miner had under-declared precious metals in its exports.
An upgrade to ‘outperform’ from Credit Suisse boosted Kaz Minerals by 3.5 percent.
“Debt levels are high but, given the strong operational performance, new debt facilities raised, reduced project capex and the around $1.1 billion cash buffer, we see limited risk of a funding gap,” said analysts at the Swiss bank.
But B&M European Value Retail fell 2.8 percent after major shareholders SSA Investments and CD&R sold 125 million shares, or a combined 12.5 percent of the company.