TUESDAY MARKET CLOSE: FTSE gets high on drugs sector deals

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The London market returned from its long weekend with a flurry, surging more than 50 points on the back of merger and acquisition activity.

With GlaxoSmithKline unveiling a complex multi-billion pound deal and reports that AstraZeneca is a prime takeover target for US giant Pfizer, the FTSE 100 Index enjoyed a gain of 56.51 points or 0.9 per cent at 6,681.76.

But Brenda Kelly, chief market strategist at IG, said investors would be cautiously eyeing the top end of the current trading range after the index pulled back from a key level during the afternoon.

“Since mid-March we have bounced between 6,500 and 6,700 without establishing any real direction,” she said. “The activity in the pharma sector is perhaps the first real sign of activity for a number of weeks, but even now 6,700 is proving to be quite the hurdle.”

Glaxo gained more than 5 per cent to 1,640p and Astra was up 4.7 per cent at 3,960p, but the biggest riser in the top flight was their rival Shire, which enjoyed an upgrade from broker Jefferies. Its stock was 7.6 per cent higher at 3,146p.

Retailers were also doing well after decent weather over the Easter weekend fuelled hopes for improved trading. Marks & Spencer rose 7.8p to 442.3p and Sports Direct International pulled back from recent weakness to climb 31p to 830p.

Outside the top flight, shares in chemicals transportation group Interbulk shed 5.1 per cent, or 0.25p, to close at 4.62p, after it said it was seeking to trim its headcount following a slowdown in activity among its European clients.

The East Kilbride-based firm, 35 per cent owned by Chinese logistics giant Sinotrans, said first-half profits would be down compared with last year. The company aims to save £900,000 a year through redundancies at its dry bulk chemicals division.