LONDON MARKETS: FTSE 100 Clings To Record High In Holiday-shortened Session

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.K. GDP expands 0.3% in Q3; Ladbrokes agrees to takeover

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Blue-chip stocks in the U.K. stuck close to a record high Friday, with investors receiving the final look at British economic growth for the third quarter as they wrap up what's likely to be a win for the week.

The FTSE 100 index was up nearly 2 points at 7,605.81. Consumer-related and utility shares moved higher, but commodity-related shares fell alongside financial and telecom stocks. On Thursday, the benchmark jumped 1% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-searches-for-direction-after-gloomy-uk-consumer-updates-2017-12-21) to log a record close of 7,601.78.

Friday's session will finish at 12:30 p.m. London time, or 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time, ahead of the Christmas Day holiday on Monday. Trading will also be closed Tuesday for Boxing Day.

For the week, the FTSE 100 was on course to rise 1.6%. For 2017, the index was looking at a 6.5% advance and that would extend last year's climb of 14.4%.

The pound bought $1.3385, on par with $1.3385 late Thursday in New York. The 10-year gilt yield slipped 1 basis point to 1.24%, according to Tradeweb. Yields fall when prices rise.

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What's moving markets: The pound edged higher after the Office for National Statistics confirmed the U.K. economy expanded by 0.3% in the third quarter, and said the annual growth rate was raised to 1.7% from a previous estimate of 1.5%.

The final GDP reading for the quarter arrived after the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday downgraded its 2017 growth view to 1.6% (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/imf-downgrades-uk-growth-forecast-2017-12-20) and said it expects growth to slow to 1.5% in 2018. The fund said Britain's pending exit from the European Union was slowing down growth, and it warned that a "breakdown in discussions could lead to a disorderly exit from the EU and sharp falls in asset prices."

Stock movers: Retail stocks gained ground heading into the last weekend before Christmas. Apparel and home furnishings retailer Next PLC (NXT.LN) moved up 2.8%, topping the FTSE 100, Marks & Spencer Group PLC (MKS.LN) rose 0.6% and DIY retailer Kingfisher (KGF.LN) bounced up 1%.

Mining shares were mostly lower, not following up on gains made in Australian trade. Accendo Markets pointed out that shares of metals producers in Australia hit five-year highs, aided in part by a pull back in the U.S. dollar, which helps dollar-denominated commodity prices.

In London trade, iron ore producers Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) (RIO) (RIO) and BHP Billiton PLC (BLT.LN) (BHP.AU) (BHP.AU) were down 0.3% each. Glencore PLC (GLEN.LN)(GLEN.LN) was also off 0.3%. But Randgold Resources PLC (RRS.LN) (RRS.LN) was up 0.8%.

Off the FTSE 100, shares of Ladbrokes Coral Group PLC (LCL.LN) rose 1.4% after the betting company accepted a takeover offer from GVC Holdings PLC (GVC.LN) worth up to GBP4 billion ($5.36 billion). (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ladbrokes-coral-accepts-gvc-takeover-bid-2017-12-22)

In broader European trade , Spanish stocks dropped after parliamentary elections in Catalonia handed a win to the separatist movement (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/spanish-stocks-slump-after-separatists-win-catalonia-election-2017-12-22), rekindling fears of the re-emergence of tensions in Spain.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 22, 2017 06:10 ET (11:10 GMT)