London close: Stocks edge higher amid political uncertainty
London stocks edged a touch higher on Friday, underpinned by a weaker pound, even as a surprise drop in US unemployment failed to stoke new gains on Wall Street.
By the close of trading, the FTSE 100 was up 0.20% or 14.88 points to 7,522.87, while the pound was down 0.52% against the dollar at 1.3050 and 0.64% weaker versus the euro at 1.1130.
The US economy destroyed 33,000 jobs in September due to the impact of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, data from the Department of Labor's Establishment Survey revealed, missing forecasts for job gains of 88,000.
However, the separate Household Survey showed the rate of unemployment fell from 4.4% in August to 4.2%, its lowest level since January 2011, as employment surged by 906,000.
Back in the UK, all eyes were on Sterling, which was on track for its worst week in a year, weighed down by speculation of a potential leadership challenge following Prime Minister Theresa May's shambolic speech at the Tory party conference.
"The FTSE 100 has been helped by weakness in the pound, and the British index reached a level not seen since early August. Theresa May isn’t too popular with some of colleagues in the Conservative Party on the back of their Conference, and the talk of a leadership 'plot' against the Prime Minister is eroding the pounds value, and propping up the FTSE 100. The London market is the top performer out of the major European benchmarks," commented David Madden at CMC Markets UK.
In other economic news, figures out from Halifax showed the average house price in the UK hit its highest on record in September, underpinned by a shortage of homes.
House prices rose 4% in the three months to September compared to a year ago, up from a 2.6% increase in August and putting the average house price at £225,109, which is the highest on record. Economists had expected a smaller gain of 3.6%.
Meanwhile, prices rose 0.8% between August and September following a 1.5% jump in August and versus expectations for a 0.1% rise.
UK retail sales data from BDO for September was solid but growth remained weak amid rising prices, a consumer crunch and declining high street footfall. Total like-for-like sales increased 2.9% but this was versus a decline of 2.8% in the same month last year.
On the corporate front, CRH was on the back foot after its proposed $3.5bn acquisition of US-based Ash Grove was been derailed after the Kansas company received a potentially larger rival offer.
Budget airline easyJet flew lower despite saying pre-tax profit for the year is expected to be at the upper end of the previously guided range as it reported a record number of passengers over the summer. Analysts said the stock was likely being dragged lower by worries that the airline is still expecting market capacity growth to be a headwind.
To the upside, Ultra Electronics was in the black after it said that shareholders in Sparton have approved the acquisition agreed earlier this year.
NMC Health was boosted by an initiation at 'buy' by Berenberg, while Barratt Developments gained after Credit Suisse lifted it to 'outperform' and Pets at Home rallied on an upbeat note from HSBC.
FTSE 100 - Risers
NMC Health (NMC) 2,838.00p 4.26%
Mediclinic International (MDC) 686.00p 3.31%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 364.30p 2.42%
Admiral Group (ADM) 1,853.00p 2.32%
Pearson (PSON) 629.50p 2.19%
WPP (WPP) 1,407.00p 1.66%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 4,781.50p 1.63%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 656.00p 1.47%
Old Mutual (OML) 196.20p 1.45%
Aviva (AV.) 497.30p 1.43%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Centrica (CNA) 174.50p -1.69%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,263.00p -1.64%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 348.70p -1.52%
CRH (CRH) 2,774.00p -1.28%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 66.63p -1.04%
Glencore (GLEN) 366.90p -0.92%
Shire Plc (SHP) 3,862.00p -0.86%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,424.00p -0.77%
Mondi (MNDI) 2,114.00p -0.75%
Severn Trent (SVT) 2,162.00p -0.74%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 282.50p 4.21%
Rank Group (RNK) 233.90p 3.77%
Pets at Home Group (PETS) 219.30p 3.64%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 220.70p 3.13%
Cobham (COB) 147.40p 2.57%
AA (AA.) 161.40p 2.54%
Homeserve (HSV) 828.00p 2.54%
BGEO Group (BGEO) 3,374.00p 2.43%
Playtech (PTEC) 940.50p 2.40%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,116.00p 2.35%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Tullow Oil (TLW) 182.10p -4.56%
Renishaw (RSW) 4,670.00p -4.30%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 825.00p -3.68%
Polymetal International (POLY) 850.50p -2.74%
Wetherspoon (J.D.) (JDW) 1,248.00p -2.42%
Vectura Group (VEC) 103.80p -2.17%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,199.00p -1.88%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 430.20p -1.78%
Virgin Money Holdings (UK) (VM.) 273.70p -1.72%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 219.40p -1.57%