Britain’s benchmark share index ended the day close to a two-month high, with a sell-off in financial stocks offset by a batch of solid updates from the healthcare and retail sectors as well as positive inflation data.
Among the top gainers, drugs giant Astrazeneca rose 2.5 per cent to 3,755.5p after forecasting a faster-than-expected return to growth, while rival Shire gained 2.7 per cent to 2,991p in a late rally after saying earnings growth would come in at the upper end of earlier guidance.
The FTSE 100 index closed up just 9.71 points or 0.1 per cent at 6,766.86, failing to hold onto an earlier two-month intraday high of 6,772.63.
IG Markets analyst Brenda Kelly said: “The FTSE is still trapped in a channel range unable to break through 6,770… We have yet to see a weekly close above the 6,754 level and unless this occurs we can expect to see a sideways to a downside bias for the index.”
Germany’s Dax and France’s Cac 40 climbed in the wake of encouraging economic data from the continent.
In London, broker upgrades helped BSkyB and financial services group Hargreaves Lansdown make gains.
BSkyB jumped nearly 4 per cent to 871p after UBS placed a “buy” rating on the communications business. Bristol-based Hargreaves climbed 23p to 1,508p as Morgan Stanley said the firm was in a sweet spot for growth after last year’s financial services industry shake-up.
Supermarkets were in focus once more after Christmas data from Kantar Worldpanel confirmed the winners and losers.
Sainsbury’s lifted nearly 3 per cent to 360.5p after the figures showed it held market share in the 12 weeks to 5 January against falls among its “big four” rivals. Shares in Morrisons fell 1.5p to 249.8p.
Moss Bros raced ahead 22 per cent to 90.5p after it said full-year profits were set to beat market expectations thanks to a sales surge over Christmas.