Belfast Telegraph

Stocks surge as polls give encouragement to Remain campaign

Sterling and the London market raced ahead as investors snapped up financial stocks amid easing concerns over a British exit from the European Union.

The FTSE 100 Index was up 182.9 points to 6204, adding more than £47 billion to the value of the UK's biggest companies, as the opinions polls began to point towards Britain remaining in the EU.

Sterling saw big gains against the dollar, rising 2.3% against the greenback to 1.468 US dollars, one of its biggest rallies since the financial crisis.

In a boost for Prime Minister David Cameron, the Remain camp appears to have clawed back lost ground, with a YouGov poll for the Sunday Times showing a narrow 44% to 43% lead over the Leave camp

The swing was also reflected in a poll by Survation, which handed the Remain camp a three-point lead, turning around previous results which put the Leave campaign in front.

Housebuilders, banks and airlines saw the biggest gains on the London market, with Taylor Wimpey up more than 6% or 12p to 188p, Lloyds Banking Group climbing 7% or 4.9p to 70p and British Airways-owner IAG rising 6% or 28.7p to 507p.

The surge on London's premier index was mirrored in Europe, with Germany's Dax up 3.4% and the Cac 40 in France up 3.6%.

The rally comes after Brexit fears hammered the pound and sent the London market into meltdown last Tuesday, with the top-flight index tumbling below the 6000 barrier for the first time in nearly four months.

Market analyst Tony Cross, of Trustnet Direct, said: "Although we still have two days of inevitably hard-fought campaigning to go, looking at the gains for house-builder and financial stocks - those sectors that arguably stand to lose the most in the event of Brexit - it really does seem as if the City is convinced that this is as good as a done deal.

"Clearly any major shift in the opinion polls over the next 48 hours could serve as a real blow to sentiment and there has to be a question mark hanging over how we can sustain today's close on 200-point rally on the day, but right now, long-term investors appear to be breathing a huge sigh of relief."

Commodity stocks were also on the up after the price of oil rose 2.3% to 50.28 US dollars a barrel. Brent crude was also buoyed by the shift in the polls towards Britain remaining in the EU.

Miners Anglo American and Glencore were up 33.5p to 670p and 5.8p to 146.4p respectively, while Royal Dutch Shell came in 32p higher at 1819p.

Away from the top tier, Majestic Wine recorded hefty gains after toasting a spike in sales thanks to its takeover of online rival Naked Wines.

Annual revenues rose 41.3% to £402.1 million as the firm said its "transformation" plan under new chief executive in Rowan Gormley was beginning to pay off.

Sales at Naked broke through the £100 million barrier and Majestic notched up its first rise in like-for-like sales in four years, coming in at 4.8%.

However, pre-tax profits fell from £18.4 million to £4.7 million as the £70 million takeover and investment costs took their toll on the balance sheet.

Shares surged just shy of 4% or 17.3p to 455p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Hargreaves Lansdown up 96p to 1325p, Lloyds Banking Group up 4.9p to 70p, Royal Bank of Scotland up 15.6p to 237.7p and Taylor Wimpey up 12p to 188p.

There were only three fallers, Rangold Resources down 95p to 6515p, Rexam down 3.5p to 626p, Fresnillo down 3p to 1224p.

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