LONDON MARKETS: FTSE 100 Closes At An All-time High As AstraZeneca Rallies, Pound Stalls

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.K. benchmark gains 1.9% for the week

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U.K. stocks ended at an all-time closing high on Friday, as drug giant AstraZeneca PLC posted its biggest gain in three years and the pound fell.

The FTSE 100 index ended 0.7% higher at 7,435.39, extending its weekly rise to 1.9%.

Meanwhile, the pound traded at $1.2880, slightly lower than late Thursday in New York. Weakness in the U.K.'s currency can help lift shares of multinational companies that make most of their profit and sales overseas.

On Thursday, sterling dropped below $1.29 after the Bank of England showed no urgency to raise interest rates. The central bank trimmed its 2017 economic growth outlook for the U.K. to 1.9%. Gov. Mark Carney said this year would be tougher for British households, as they deal with higher consumer prices and slow wage growth.

Stock movers: AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.LN) (AZN.LN) jumped to the top of the FTSE 100, rising 9% as the company posted positive, late-stage study results for cancer treatment Imfinzi (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/astrazeneca-plans-imfinzi-submission-after-trial-2017-05-12). That marked the shares' best session since April 2014.

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"This has raised expectations that a successful launch could well boost revenues substantially in 2018," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a note.

But Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC (HIK.LN) fell 2%, extending Thursday's 8% slide. The company said there's "a low likelihood" that it will win approval this year from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make a generic version of GlaxoSmithKline PLC's (GSK.LN) Advair asthma medication.

Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LLOY.LN) (LLOY.LN) fell 1.4%, with the lender preparing to pay GBP80 million to compensate customers (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/lloyds-to-pay-80m-in-new-sales-blunder-06r3gnq2d) who bought investment products that were deemed low-risk, according to The Times newspaper. Customers have complained about the poor performance of the products.

The U.K. government is expected in the coming days to complete selling its stake in the lender, which it bailed out during the financial crisis.

Noted U.K. fund manager Neil Woodford has returned to investing in the U.K. banking sector with the purchase of shares in Lloyds, his management company said Friday in an April trade update.

"Specifically, we view Lloyds as a well-managed bank with a conservative approach to its balance sheet. Its valuation looks very attractive in our view, and it has the ability to pay a very healthy and growing level of dividend," wrote Woodford Investment Management.

Oil in focus: Shares in oil producers Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) (RDSB.LN) and BP PLC (BP.LN) (BP.LN) have contributed to the FTSE 100's weekly advance, climbing alongside gains in crude-oil prices. Oil futures have leapt roughly 3.5% this week on a decline in U.S. crude supplies and in anticipation that OPEC will extend its production-curb agreement when it meets May 25.

See:Here's why OPEC might just let the output deal collapse (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-opec-might-just-let-the-deal-on-oil-output-cuts-collapse-2017-05-11)

And check out:The U.S. shale oil boom is actually 'OPEC's friend,' says Goldman's Currie (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-shale-oil-boom-is-actually-opecs-friend-says-goldmans-currie-2017-05-11)

The oil group makes up 14% of the FTSE 100's weighting. Shell shares were up 3.6% for the week, but off 0.1% on Friday. BP shares have gained 1.9% for the week and rose 0.9% on Friday.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 12, 2017 12:20 ET (16:20 GMT)