October 28, 2019 / 9:21 AM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 2-FTSE 100 ekes out gains on pharma strength

* FTSE 100 up 0.1%, FTSE 250 up 0.5%

* Astra, GSK offer most support to main bourse

* HSBC falls after profit miss

* Cairn Energy biggest midcap faller (Adds company news items, changes analyst quote, updates share moves)

By Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi

Oct 28 (Reuters) - The exporter-laden FTSE 100 recovered from early losses on Monday despite a rebound in sterling, boosted by gains in leading drug stocks and as prospects for a U.S.-China trade agreement powered miners and industrials.

The blue chip index closed 0.1% higher, lagging peers on Wall Street and in Europe as a near 4% drop in HSBC after an underwhelming earnings update, and a slide in dollar earners, capped gains.

The more domestically-focused FTSE 250 outperformed with a 0.5% rise ahead of a parliamentary vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s demand for a general election.

AstraZeneca climbed as much 3.6% after saying a combination of its cancer drug, Imfinzi, along with chemotherapy helped curb progression of lung cancer in a late-stage study. The shares ended up 1%.

In the same sector GlaxoSmithKline added 2.2% after the company said it had begun a late-stage study of its experimental antibiotic in patients with urinary tract infections and gonorrhoea.

Gains of between 1.3% and 2.2% in Glencore, BHP and Anglo American powered the mining sector , exposed to the international trade scenario, to a one-month high after U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected to sign a significant part of a trade deal with China ahead of schedule.

EARNINGS TARGET

By contrast HSBC shares suffered their biggest one-day loss in eight months as the bank’s third-quarter profit missed expectations and it dropped its 2020 earnings target amid macro-economic uncertainties.

The update dragged a sub-index of banks 2.4% lower.

Financial companies have also had to adjust to a lower interest rate environment this year as central banks globally move to loosen monetary policies to cushion an impact from trade tensions.

To that end, markets are also keeping a close eye on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s meeting this week for more support to the slowing global economy.

“We see the Fed cutting rates this week and possibly again next year, as it seeks to provide insurance against a broad economic slowdown”, BlackRock analysts wrote in their weekly note.

In addition, UK firms face a lack of clarity at home as lawmakers and Prime Minister Boris Johnson feud over Brexit. Earlier in the day, the European Union agreed a three-month flexible delay to the Oct. 31 exit date.

Among midcaps, there was an 8.1% plunge in Cairn Energy after the oil and gas explorer abandoned an offshore well in Mexico.

Aston Martin, which has plunged nearly 80% from its 2018 debut, dropped 8.5% after Bank of America Merrill Lynch downgraded the stock. (Reporting by Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi Additional reporting by Safia Infant in Bengaluru Editing by Arun Koyyur and David Holmes )

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