LONDON MARKETS: FTSE 100 Ends Higher, Led By ITV's Bounce

By Carla Mozee and Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

British GDP meets expectations with 0.3% rise in second quarter

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U.K. stocks closed higher Wednesday, helped in part by rises for miners and broadcaster ITV PLC, while expectations for modest growth in the British economy were met.

The FTSE 100 index rose 0.2% to finish at 7,452.32, building on Tuesday's advance of 0.8% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-advances-with-oil-stocks-up-jimmy-choo-rallies-2017-07-25).

ITV (ITV.LN) notched a 2.4% rise for the benchmark's biggest gain. The home of "Downton Abbey" backed its 2017 guidance and raised its dividend (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/itv-profit-falls-16-but-dividend-is-raised-2017-07-26), saying its 16% fall in first-half pretax profit was in line with its expectations.

Also higher, Fresnillo PLC (FRES.LN) was up 0.6%. The miner reaffirmed its 2017 production guidance (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fresnillo-gold-silver-production-rises-2017-07-26) as it reported higher silver and gold output for the second quarter.

Anglo American PLC (AAL.LN) tacked on 2%, adding to Tuesday's 6.1% rise (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-advances-with-oil-stocks-up-jimmy-choo-rallies-2017-07-25) that came after the miner's Kumba Iron Ore unit said it would restart dividend payments.

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Other stock movers: Compass Group PLC shares (CPG.LN) climbed 1.8% after the catering services company said reported a rise in third-quarter revenue and backed its full-year expectations.

But Sage Group PLC (SGE.LN) lost 1.2% after the company said organic software and software-related services revenue dropped by 5.9% for the first nine months of the fiscal year. The financial software maker also said it's buying Intacct Corp., a cloud-based financial management software maker based in San Jose, Calif., for GBP654 million ($850 million).

Shares of engineering group GKN PLC (GKN.LN) closed 1% higher, erasing earlier losses, after the company said first-half pretax profit more than tripled to 559 million pounds (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gkn-earnings-rise-offers-upbeat-2017-outlook-2017-07-26) ($719.9 million). The aerospace and automotive parts supplier said it has closed its defined-benefit pension scheme.

Economic data: A first reading of U.K. gross domestic product in the second quarter was released by the Office for National Statistics. The British economy grew by 0.3% in the second quarter over the previous quarter and was up 1.7% year-over-year, meeting expectations from a FactSet survey of economists. In the first quarter, GDP expanded by a modest 0.2%.

British economic growth in the second quarter was driven by the services sector, while production and construction acted as a drag, the ONS said in its statement (https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/nationalaccounts/uksectoraccounts/articles/monthlyeconomiccommentary/july2017).

"The economy has experienced a notable slowdown in the first half of this year," ONS Head of National Accounts Darren Morgan said.

The pound fell to an intraday low of $1.3000 before rising to $1.3045, above late Tuesday's settlement of $1.3026 in New York.

While growth remains largely anemic, tentative signs pointing to improvement in the second half of the year include better-than-expected retail sales in June, said Ben Brettell, senior economist at Hargreaves Lansdown, in a note.

"Yesterday, a CBI survey showed U.K. factories increasing output at the fastest rate since the mid-1990s, suggesting manufacturing--which makes up around ten percent of the economy--might make a meaningful contribution to overall economic growth in the third and fourth quarters," he said.

"As ever it's worth noting that initial GDP estimates can usually be taken with a pinch of salt, as they are based on less than half of the data which will ultimately be available, and are therefore subject to revision in the coming months," he said.

Later Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve will announce its latest monetary policy decision. U.K. investors closely watch U.S. central bank moves, as they can drive price changes in the pound and in government bonds, as well as shift sentiment.

See:Fed to stick to plans for rate hike, balance-sheet selloff this year (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/no-retreat-fed-to-stick-to-plans-for-rate-hike-balance-sheet-selloff-this-year-2017-07-24)

The Federal Open Market Committee decision is due at 7 p.m. London time, or 2 p.m. Eastern.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 26, 2017 12:01 ET (16:01 GMT)