Friday market close: FTSE boosted as May speech drags sterling

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Sterling fell further into the red as investors reacted to Prime Minister Theresa May’s much-anticipated Brexit speech in Florence.

The pound fell to daily lows in the midst of her landmark address, which outlined plans for a potential two-year transitional deal but confirmed that the UK would still eventually leave the single market and customs union as part of its divorce from the EU.

Her speech originally sent the pound to daily lows against the US dollar and euro, to $1.350 and €1.128 respectively.

Sterling made a slight recovery in afternoon trading, but was still down 0.4 per cent against the greenback at $1.352 and down 0.5 per cent versus the euro at €1.133.

But sterling’s fall helped boost the FTSE 100, which ended the day up 46.74 points at 7,310.64.

In UK stocks, AstraZeneca topped the FTSE 100 after Bernstein raised its rating to “outperform” and increased its price target to 5,780p from 4,520p. It sent the pharma group’s shares up 143p to 4,912p

Saga shares edged higher by 0.2p to 196.9p. The over-50s insurer and holiday firm said it was on course to achieve its fourth consecutive year of growth despite profits being squeezed by cost pressures.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 included Johnson Matthey up 102p to 3,492p, Standard Life Aberdeen up 11.3p to 427.8p, and RSA Insurance Group up 15.5p to 634.5p.

The biggest fallers included Kingfisher down 3.5p to 296.7p, Smurfit Kappa Group down 22p to 2,347p, and Lloyds Banking Group down 0.54p to 66.91p.

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