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FTSE 100 pushes to six-month high as traders welcome China data

By August Graham, PA City Reporter

European markets followed the gains made by their counterparts across the pond, with the FTSE 100 hitting a six-month peak, as traders cheered on data from China and a falling pound.

London’s blue chip index closed on Friday up 64.75 points, or 0.85%, to 7674.56, after hitting highs of 7689.67 earlier in the day.

Not to be outdone, France’s Cac index added 0.97%, climbing above 6,100 points during the day for the first time since 2007, while Germany’s Dax did a little worse, with a 0.58% rise.

Positive data came out of China during the day. The economy grew by 6.1% in 2019.

It caps off the lowest year of growth for nearly three decades, said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets, as the country was hit by tensions with the US. However markets were happy by the lack of surprises in the data.

“It is no secret that China’s economy is slowing down,” Mr Madden said.

But, he added, the remedies seem to be taking effect: “In recent months the Chinese authorities have been introducing measures to spur on economic activity, such as loosening lending restrictions, and the tactics appear to be working.”

It follows a couple of weeks of global de-escalation. US President Donald Trump has signed the first stages of a deal with China that traders hope could bring a damaging trade war to an end.

Meanwhile, investors seem less worried about the Middle East, where Mr Trump ordered the killing of Iran’s top general earlier this month.

The FTSE was also buoyed by a falling pound, which lost 0.36% of its value against the dollar, to 1.3029. When buying euros, sterling was worth just 0.01% more at 1.1744.

In company news, Cranswick brought home the bacon for shareholders as the meat maker said that profit for the financial year will beat market expectations.

Shares closed up 318p, or more than 9%, to 3,714p as Cranswick said that a “robust performance” had continued over the important Christmas period.

Unlike Cranswick, Mr Kipling deals only in vegetarian mince for its mince pies which helped boost Premier Foods to higher sales in the third quarter.

But investors were less impressed by the 2.6% increase in sales for the 13 weeks. They sent the value down by 1p to 42p.

Insurer Hastings, meanwhile, had a crash, with shares down 7.8p, or 4.2%, to 177.4p  after warning that profits will miss forecasts because of rising claims costs.

The UK firm also cuts its shareholder dividend as it told investors the company had seen repair costs soar higher in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Ladbrokes owner GVC fell 23.2p to 910.6p, even as it said its trading performance over 2019 had been “excellent”.

The betting giant said earnings before tax and interest for the year to December 31 were at the top end of its expectations of between £670 million and £680 million.

Brent crude remained largely untouched by the market, rising 0.01% to 64.76 dollars per barrel.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were NMC Healthcare, up 116p to 1,557.50p, Evraz, up 25.1p to 418.80p, Ashtead Group, up 125p to 2,554.00p, International Airlines, up 32.6p to 671.00p, and Pearson, up 25.2p to 588.60p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Whitbread, down 106p to 4,481.00p, Flutter Entertainment, down 114p to 9,066, Smurfit Kappa, down 34p to 2,718.00p, Barclays, down 1.56p to 175.24p, and Vodafone, down 1.3p to 154.38p.