London Close: FTSE firmer as pound losses ground after May speech
London stocks had reversed earlier losses to trade a little higher by Friday's close, helped along by a weaker pound as investors weighed up a key speech by Prime Minister Theresa May.
The FTSE 100 was up 0.64% to 7,310.64, while the pound was down 0.44% against the dollar at 1.3522 and 0.63% weaker versus the euro at 1.1302 as the single currency was boosted by encouraging business activity data for the bloc.
Over in Europe, the DAX was 0.06% lower to 12,592.35, the CAC 40 traded 0.27% higher to 5,281.29 and the IBEX 35 gained 0.08% at 10,305.00
Stocks had kicked off the session in the red amid concerns about North Korea, which threatened on Thursday to test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific.
Speaking at a United Nations meeting in New York, North Korea's foreign minister Ri Yong Ho said the country could consider a nuclear test of "unprecedented scale".
Investors were also weighing up the latest speech from Theresa May regarding the UK's view of Brexit and ongoing negotiations.
In it, she drew many similarities between Britain and the EU and stated that if the complicated talks to unravel more than 40 years of union should fail, then the only beneficiaries would be those who "reject our values and oppose our interests."
She also asserted the UK's call for a two year transition out of the EU while offereing concessions on a divorce deal as she appealed for a revival of Brexit negotiations.
Market participants were also digesting the latest survey from the Confederation of British Industry, which showed that factory orders in the UK grew at their weakest rate since April in September.
The CBI's factory order book balanced fell to +7 from +13 in August, missing expectations for an unchanged reading, largely due to the food and drink sector.
Meanwhile, the export order book balance came in at +10 in September from +11 the month before and the output balance for the last three months fell to +17 from +30.
Still, the CBI pointed out that all three balances remained above the long-run averages.
On the corporate front, specialty chemicals company Johnson Matthey racked up healthy gains for the second day running after it announced a £200m investment in battery technology on Thursday that will allow it to tap into the growing electric car market.
Pets at Home surged after a capital markets day on Thursday that was more upbeat than expected, according to analysts.
Acacia Mining was also on the front foot after saying it has yielded positive results from a trial to increase the proportion of sellable gold produced by its smallest mine in the country.
Going the other way, Smiths Group was under the cosh after it reported a small decline in full year underlying revenue but 11% growth on a reported basis thanks to the weak pound and said its strategic progress set it up to return to growth next year.
Saga, the specialist provider of products and services for those over 50, reversed course to nudge just a touch lower after it reported a 5.5% jump in its underlying pre-tax profit for the first half to £110.2m.
Shares in oil rig builder Lamprell tanked as it posted a drop in first-half revenue and warned that revenue for 2018 would be 10% lower on the year.
In terms of sectors, heavily-weighted mining stocks were marginally higher on the day, with BHP Billiton, Antofagasta, Anglo American and Glencore all up a touch following S&P's downgrade of China's credit rating on Thursday.
FTSE 100 - Risers
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,912.00p 3.01%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,492.00p 3.01%
Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) 427.80p 2.71%
RSA Insurance Group (RSA) 634.50p 2.50%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,454.00p 2.18%
WPP (WPP) 1,414.00p 1.95%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,437.00p 1.91%
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) 3,803.00p 1.90%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 939.50p 1.90%
Pearson (PSON) 576.50p 1.77%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,517.00p -5.95%
Kingfisher (KGF) 296.70p -1.17%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,349.00p -0.93%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 66.91p -0.80%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 729.10p -0.76%
Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 413.10p -0.72%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,191.00p -0.58%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 233.30p -0.43%
National Grid (NG.) 944.10p -0.40%
ITV (ITV) 166.30p -0.36%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Pets at Home Group (PETS) 207.50p 6.63%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 178.30p 4.33%
Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) 244.80p 3.55%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 664.50p 3.26%
Amec Foster Wheeler (AMFW) 497.70p 2.87%
Indivior (INDV) 325.10p 2.85%
Cairn Energy (CNE) 185.00p 2.60%
Safestore Holdings (SAFE) 401.40p 2.50%
Polymetal International (POLY) 828.50p 2.42%
Ultra Electronics Holdings (ULE) 1,771.00p 2.37%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) 445.00p -2.87%
FDM Group (Holdings) (FDM) 957.00p -2.71%
TBC Bank Group (TBCG) 1,632.00p -2.44%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 1,325.00p -2.29%
JPMorgan Indian Investment Trust (JII) 710.00p -2.07%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 5,830.00p -2.02%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 286.10p -1.82%
CLS Holdings (CLI) 198.80p -1.55%
Metro Bank (MTRO) 3,292.00p -1.29%
Evraz (EVR) 290.40p -1.25%