FTSE hits one-month high as UK grows at fastest pace since July 2020

·3-min read
A waitress carries meals to a table during service at Loxleys Restaurant & Wine Bar in Stratford, Warwickshire, as indoor hospitality and entertainment venues reopen to the public following the further easing of lockdown restrictions in England. Picture date: Monday May 17, 2021. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
The services sector provided the biggest boost to the British economy, with output growing 3.4% during the month. Photo: Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) touched a one-month high on Friday as the UK economy grew 2.3% in April, the fastest rise since July 2020.

The figure, which follows strong growth of 2.1% in March, was slightly above Reuters poll consensus for a 2.2% increase as non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality reopened to the public after months of lockdown.

The services sector provided the biggest boost to the British economy, with output growing 3.4% during the month. However overall output remains 3.7% below the pre-pandemic levels seen in February last year.

Output in the production sector fell by 1.3% in April 2021, the first fall since January 2021 as three of the four sectors contracted.

London's benchmark index climbed more than 0.7% to its highest since 10 May, when it touched its highest level since the pandemic began. It ended 0.65% higher on the day.

The French CAC (^FCHI) rose almost 0.8% and the DAX (^GDAXI) was 0.8% up in Germany after a slower start in the morning.

“Today’s figures are a promising sign that our economy is beginning to recover,” chancellor Rishi Sunak said.

“With more than a million people coming off furlough across March and April and the number of employees in work rising, it is clear that our Plan for Jobs is working.

“But I know there are people who still need our support, which is why the furlough scheme is in place until September to protect as many jobs as possible, and schemes like Kickstart will continue to create jobs for young people, as we look to build the economy of the future.”

Read more: UK economy grows 2.3% in April as COVID restrictions ease and pubs and shops re-open

Across the pond, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) was flat at the time of the European close, as was the tech-heavy Nasdaq (^IXIC). The Dow Jones (^DJI) almost 0.2% lower after opening flat.

The muted mood on Wall Street followed a rally on Thursday where stocks climbed to record highs despite US inflation rising to 5% year-on-year in May, the highest since 2008.

The jump was bigger than expected – CPI was forecast to rise to a 13-year high of 4.7% from a year earlier, up from 4.2% in April, which was already the fastest rise since September 2008.

Core inflation, which strips out volatile items such as food and energy, jumped to 3.8% year-on-year, the fastest annual rate since June 1992.

Read more: Oil demand will exceed pre-COVID levels by end of 2022

Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor, said: “Investors shrugged off a higher than expected inflation print having taken a good look underneath the bonnet.

“The current indications are that inflationary pressures are likely to subside in the second half of the year and increasingly investors are beginning to warm to the Federal Reserve’s narrative of the current elevated levels being transitory.”

Asian stocks were mixed on Friday after a rally in US shares and treasuries on hopes that a jump in inflation is likely to be transitory, leaving scope for ongoing central-bank support.

In Japan, the Nikkei (^N225) was flat while the Hang Seng (^HSI) was 0.4% higher and the Shanghai Composite (000001.SS) dipped 0.5%.

Watch: What is inflation and why it is important?