UK stocks end higher as economic recovery hopes build

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

(Reuters) – London-listed stocks notched up their strongest close since early March on Wednesday amid sustained hopes of an economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, even as unrest in Hong Kong cast some doubt over Sino-U.S. relations.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 .FTSE added 1.3%, while the domestically focussed FTSE 250 .FTMC rose 1.2% in anticipation of thousands of retailers emerging from lockdowns next month, while reports of a bigger-than-expected euro zone stimulus package also helped sentiment.

“Society has quickly become accustomed to social distancing measures. This shift in behaviour sends a positive signal to markets as it helps to remove layers of uncertainty which have been hanging over share prices,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

London’s blue-chip and mid-cap indexes have risen about 25% and 38%, respectively, from multi-year lows in March as traders bet on a faster revival in supply chains and consumer demand to pull out of what is expected to be the worst UK recession in 300 years.

Data on Wednesday showed UK grocery sales rose 14.3% during the 12 weeks through May 17, the fastest rate since comparable records began in 1994.

Travel-related stocks .FTNMX5750 surged again to advance 10% in just two days as Germany and Spain started to ease travel restrictions.

Asset manager St James’s Place (SJP.L) rose 8.3% and was among the biggest gainers on the FTSE 100 after reporting a 1% gain in April net inflows.

British Land Co Plc (BLND.L) jumped 7.4% even as the real estate firm racked up a 1.1 billion pound ($1.4 billion) loss in its year ended March 31.

Still, investors remained cautious as U.S. President Donald Trump said he was preparing to take action against China over its move to impose a security bill in Hong Kong, potentially reigniting trade tensions between the world’s largest economies.

Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Mark Potter

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