LONDON MARKETS: U.K. Stocks Set To Finish 2017 At Record High

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatchFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

FTSE 100 on track for 7% 2017 gain

U.K. stocks were on track to finish 2017 in style on Friday, with the benchmark index rising on the last trading day of the year and heading toward an all-time closing high.

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What are markets doing: The FTSE 100 index climbed 0.1% to 7,632.56, which would be enough to take out its previous record close of 7,622.88 set on Thursday.

Trading ends in London at 12:30 p.m. on Friday because it's the last trading day before New Year's.

For the full year, the London blue chip index eyed a 6.9% advance, adding to a 14% jump from 2016. U.K. stocks have in recent years been boosted by pound weakness that came after the country's vote in June 2016 to leave the European Union. A weaker sterling tends to boost the FTSE 100, as about 75% if the index's revenues are made overseas and therefore appear stronger when converted back into the U.K. currency.

The pound rose to $1.3499 on Friday from $1.3442 late in New York on Thursday. Sterling has risen 9.3% against the dollar in 2017.

For 2018, investment banks are cautious on the U.K. stock market, largely due to uncertainty over the country's Brexit deal with the EU. FTSE 100 forecasts for next year range from 7,000 at Société Générale to 8,200 at Citigroup. The average prediction from the investment banks lands at 7,733, indicating a 1.3% upside from Friday's levels.

Read:4 reasons Wall Street banks have the hots for Europe in 2018 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/4-reasons-wall-street-banks-have-the-hots-for-europe-in-2018-2017-12-20)

Stock movers: Most FTSE 100 listed stocks are set to end 2017 on an upbeat note, with shares of NMC Health PLC (NMC.LN) leading advances with an 86% yearly gain.

There was little corporate news on Friday, but miners continued their march higher. The sector has gotten a boost in recent days from a rally in copper that ended at its highest level since February 2014 after 16 straight sessions of gains on Thursday. The metal on Friday, however, took a breather and dropped 0.3%.

Shares of Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) (RIO) (RIO) climbed 0.8%, BHP Billiton PLC (BLT.LN) (BHP.AU) (BHP.AU) gained 0.7% and Fresnillo (FRES.LN) put on 0.8%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 29, 2017 04:36 ET (09:36 GMT)