Belfast Telegraph

FTSE 100 closes higher after concerns lessen about Le Pen victory in France

London's blue chip index followed its European peers into positive territory, after a debate between France's presidential hopefuls lowered concerns about a win by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen.

The FTSE 100 closed higher by nearly 0.2% or 13.57 points at 7,248.1 points, while the French CAC soared 1.3% and the German Dax rose 0.9%.

Investors continued to price political risk out of the market, after a strong showing from centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday night in the final TV debate before Sunday's vote.

Jasper Lawler, a senior market analyst at London Capital Group, said: "A confident display from market-favourite Emmanuel Macron in Wednesday evening's French presidential debates makes the odds seemingly impassable for Marine Le Pen.

"Unconfirmed documents insinuating Macron has been involved in tax evasion have probably come too late in the day to make a difference."

In currency markets, the pound was mixed, trading 0.3% higher against the US dollar at 1.291, but down 0.4% against the euro at 1.176.

It struggled to gain dominance over global peers despite data showing that the closely watched Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index (PMI) reached 55.8 last month up from 55.0 in March and above economists' forecasts of 54.4.

The jump in services activity was underpinned by the fastest growth in new work this year, driven by robust business-to-business demand, new product launches and rising sales abroad.

In oil markets, Brent crude prices tumbled 2.8% to 49.13 US dollars per barrel (£38.05), after the Kremlin's spokesperson said no decision had been made on whether Russia would agree to extend oil cuts into the second half of the year.

In UK stocks, HSBC jumped 18.6p to 663.8p despite reporting a 19% fall in first quarter profits to five billion US dollars (£3.8 billion) due to changes in the accounting of the fair value of its debt. However, profit was still ahead of analyst expectations.

Burberry rose 26p to 1,608p after revealing plans to relocate 300 jobs from its London offices to Leeds as part of wider cost-cutting measures.

Next shares tumbled 225p to 4,185p as the retail giant again cut its profit outlook and warned trading remains under pressure after an 8.1% plunge in high street sales.

Ladbrokes Coral slumped 5.5p to 122.9p after reporting a 7% plunge in over-the-counter bets at its shops between January and April, while G4S leapt 10.6p to 325.1p following an 8.9% rise in first quarter revenues thanks in part to new contracts.

Imagination Technologies rose 3p to 99.75p after the British chipmaker outlined plans to sell its MIPS and Ensigma businesses and said it was launching a formal dispute with Apple over plans to scrap its royalty and licence agreements.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were International Consolidated Airlines up 16.5p to 572p, TUI up 33p to 1,164p, HSBC Holdings up 18.6p to 663.8p, and Admiral Group up 55p to 2,126p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Next down 225p to 4,185p, Antofagasta down 37p to 752p, Anglo American down 43.5p to 1,001p, and Paddy Power Betfair down 325p to 8,070p.

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