The FTSE 100 and the pound have climbed as investors held on to the tentative hope for a Brexit trade deal ahead of prime minister Boris Johnson’s trip to Brussels for last-minute talks.
The UK blue-chip index rose 34 points, or 0.5%, to 6,591 while the pound was up 0.7% against the dollar at $1.345. News that the AstraZeneca (AZN) and Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine had been confirmed as having 70% efficacy also buoyed sentiment.
House builders, which suffered a widespread sell-off at the start of the week, regained some lost ground, with Taylor Wimpey (TW) up 2.8% at 161p, Berkeley Group (BKG) up 2.7% at £44.22 and Persimmon (PSN) adding 2.1% to trade at £27.58.
Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said the pound was displaying ‘fragile hope’ as Johnson travelled to Brussels for a head-to-head with president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to try and thrash out a Brexit trade deal.
‘Though the chances of a deal come down to a private dinner between the prime minister and…Ursula von der Leyen, chances that [EU chief negotiator] Michel Barnier have described as “very slim”, sterling wasn’t giving up just yet,’ he said.
‘Now it has just got to withstand a session’s worth of speculation, where every comment and report is going to be under an intense spotlight.’
Kitchen maker Howden Joinery (HWDN) was the biggest mid-cap gainer, up 8.3%, or 53p, to 695p after it forecasted 2020 profits to be higher than expected following a surge in demand after lockdown. It is now expecting profit before tax for this year to be between £123m and £135m, a 10% increase on previous forecasts.