- Healthcare stocks lift FTSE
- German PMI data drives sentiment
- Investors look ahead to Draghi speech
- UK retail sales disappoint
techMARK 2,819.77 +0.82%
FTSE 100 6,777.66 +0.33%
FTSE 250 15,838.57 +0.57%
London's blue chips ended Thursday's session on a positive note, led by Astrazeneca. Increased speculation regarding ECB action, on the heels of weaker than forecast readings on the Eurozone economy, were offset by a weak report on UK retail sales.
After making gains both early and late on, the FTSE 100 ultimately closed 22 points higher at 6,778.
July saw UK retail sales register their slowest annual gain since November, with volumes surprising with a slowdown to just a 0.1% rate of gain, compared to an advance of 0.2% in June.
Expectations had been for a rise of 0.4%.
Investors were also surprised to see that food sales declined, the first time on record that this has happened.
The Office for National Statistics also released figures showing that while UK public finances improved last month borrowing still remained above the government's target.
Across the Channel, Markit's 'flash' composite Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), which tracks growth in the manufacturing and service sectors that make up more than two-thirds of the economy, fell to 54.9 in August from 55.7. However, it nonetheless remained well above the crucial 50 mark that separates growth from contraction.
On the upside, Germany's private sector grew for a 16th month running in August, suggesting Europe's largest economy could expand robustly in the third quarter after it suffered a surprise contraction in the second.
However, following those figures Barclays Research pointed out that it sees "material downside risks" to its forecast for the Eurozone's GDP to expand at 0.3% quarter-on-quarter clip in the third quarter.
Meanwhile, the Jackson Hole Symposium of central bankers is due to kick off later Stateside with comments from policymakers around the world likely to be closely watched.
Bid speculation sends Astrazeneca racing ahead
Healthcare stocks gained strongly amid speculation Pfizer may make another bid for Astrazeneca. Smith & Nephew and GlaxoSmithKline also rose strongly.
Financial stocks also made decent gains, with Hargreaves Lansdown, Standard Life, Old Mutual and Aviva all higher.
Mining stocks led to the downside after metals consumer China disappointed with its manufacturing data and metals prices fell. Fresnillo, Randgold Resources, Anglo American, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton all fell into the red.
BHP was still under pressure in the aftermath of Tuesday's underwhelming plans for a demerger. Chief financial officer Graham Kerr, who is due to be the head of the spin-off company, has been cited as saying that the lack of a share buyback - which many investors had been expecting - was a "sore point", while plans to give shareholders stock in the new firm may have "irritated" some who are not mandated to hold investments in Australia.
Oil stock Tullow Oil was also in the red.
On the second tier, metal miner Kazakhmys hailed progress with a shake-up designed to focus it on the lucrative copper market, but said 2014 gold production was likely to fall short of hopes, pushing the stock into the red.
Investec knocked Ophir Energy lower after it reduced its rating to 'hold' from 'buy' and lowered its target price to 250p from 315p.
FTSE 100 - Risers
AstraZeneca (AZN) 4,411.50p +2.95%
Schroders (SDR) 2,392.00p +2.66%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,133.00p +2.16%
CRH (CRH) 1,401.00p +2.04%
Barratt Developments (BDEV) 366.20p +1.84%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,064.00p +1.62%
3i Group (III) 387.60p +1.57%
Standard Life (SL.) 376.90p +1.48%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,018.00p +1.39%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 1,037.00p +1.37%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Fresnillo (FRES) 938.00p -3.55%
Randgold Resources Ltd. (RRS) 4,904.00p -1.86%
Kingfisher (KGF) 306.80p -1.67%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,573.50p -1.29%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 808.50p -1.28%
Royal Mail (RMG) 440.30p -1.21%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 1,126.00p -1.14%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,324.00p -1.12%
Aberdeen Asset Management (ADN) 431.70p -1.10%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,433.00p -0.72%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Senior (SNR) 292.40p +3.84%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,742.00p +2.96%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 377.90p +2.89%
Phoenix Group Holdings (DI) (PHNX) 735.50p +2.87%
RPS Group (RPS) 269.50p +2.86%
Cranswick (CWK) 1,349.00p +2.82%
International Personal Finance (IPF) 520.00p +2.77%
Diploma (DPLM) 686.00p +2.62%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 103.50p +2.48%
Carillion (CLLN) 337.60p +2.30%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Kazakhmys (KAZ) 291.10p -5.64%
Petra Diamonds Ltd.(DI) (PDL) 183.60p -3.72%
Ophir Energy (OPHR) 221.40p -3.61%
Exova Group (EXO) 220.00p -3.51%
Just Retirement Group (JRG) 146.20p -2.60%
Thomas Cook Group (TCG) 121.00p -2.42%
Electrocomponents (ECM) 239.80p -2.36%
Ladbrokes (LAD) 132.30p -2.22%
Lonmin (LMI) 212.90p -2.11%
African Barrick Gold (ABG) 239.60p -1.80%