WEDNESDAY MARKET CLOSE: FTSE hits 14-year high as pound eases

The pound dipped after a poll showed the Yes camp gaining ground ahead of the referendum. Picture: PA

The pound dipped after a poll showed the Yes camp gaining ground ahead of the referendum. Picture: PA

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Improved economic and geopolitical news lifted the FTSE 100 to a 14-year intra-day high.

Tony Cross, market analyst at Trustnet Direct, said: “Better-than-expected services PMI numbers from China, increased hopes that the European Central Bank would act to stimulate the struggling eurozone economy and hopes of a lasting ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia all combined to drive sentiment.

“What’s more, the falling value of the pound as the chance of Scotland voting for independence increases has given a further filip to sterling denominated assets, lifting the London benchmark index to within a whisper of 6,900.”

The FTSE 100 closed 44.41 points higher at 6,873.58, having reached 6,898.62 during the session.

The biggest riser was industrial equipment hire company Ashtead, up 35.5p at 1,022p as it raised its full-year earnings guidance after posting a 33 per cent jump in first-quarter profits.

Building materials group CRH was also more than 3 per cent higher as HSBC became the latest broker to upgrade it in light of the UK’s booming construction sector.

The shares, which have recently been given the nod by Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, added 48p at 1,446p.

The improved geopolitical situation after Ukraine and Russia took steps towards a ceasefire process boosted travel stocks. International Airlines Group rose 1 per cent or 5.3p to 370p and EasyJet cheered 19p to 1,364p.

But stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown had a day to forget despite posting a 7 per cent rise in profits. The figure was a slowdown on the previous year’s 28 per cent increase, and shares fell 66p to 1,073p as the group reported a 50 per cent fall in annuity business following recent pension reforms.

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