LONDON MARKETS: FTSE 100 Rises As AstraZeneca Rallies And Pound Stalls

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

FTSE 100 headed for another weekly advance

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U.K. stocks were higher Friday, putting British blue chips on track for a winning week, as drug maker AstraZeneca PLC shares gained and the pound fell.

The FTSE 100 index was up 0.3% at 7,404.53, with consumer services and utility stocks among the advancers. But basic materials and industrial shares were lower.

For the week, the London benchmark was on course for a 1.5% advance. That would mark the first time since February it has risen for three weeks in a row, FactSet data show.

Meanwhile, the pound traded at $1.2887, on par with late Thursday in New York. Weakness in the U.K.'s currencu can help lift shares of multinational companies that make most of their profit and sales overseas.

"The FTSE 100 found buyers at the Friday's open, as the Bank of England meeting temporarily dented the appetite in the pound market. The temporary pause in [pound] appreciation encouraged a recovery above the 7,400 [level]", said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior market analyst at London Capital Group, in a note.

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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%. Governor Mark Carney said this year would be tougher for British households, as they deal with higher consumer prices and slow wage growth.

"It seems like the pound traders temporarily abandoned their $1.30 target after ... Carney said that the 'low rates are not excessive', they are 'appropriate'," said Ozkardeskaya.

Stock movers: AstraZeneca PLC (AZN.LN) jumped to the top of the FTSE 100, rising 5.1% 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). The shares were on track for their best session since July 2016.

"We look forward to working with regulatory authorities around the world to bring Imfinzi to lung cancer patients as soon as possible," AstraZeneca said in a statement.

Other advancers Friday included Standard Life PLC (SL.LN) and International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (IAG.LN) as their shares rose 1.4% and 1.3%, respectively. Royal Mail PLC (RMG.LN) picked up 1.3%.

But Hikma Pharmaceuticals PLC (HIK.LN) fell 2.4%, 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.

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, rising alongside gains in crude oil prices. Oil futures have leapt roughly 3.5% 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 looking at a 3.5% rise for the week, but were off 0.2% on Friday. BP shares have gained 1.1% for the week, but were flat on Friday.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 12, 2017 04:21 ET (08:21 GMT)