October 24, 2019 / 8:35 AM / 22 days ago

UPDATE 2-FTSE 100 heads for best weekly performance in 9 months

    * FTSE 100 up 0.9%, FTSE 250 down 0.1%
    * AstraZeneca biggest boost to main index
    * RBS slides after reporting Q3 loss
    * EU decision on Brexit extension awaited

 (Adds company news, updates share moves)
    By Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi
    Oct 24 (Reuters) - London's exporter-heavy FTSE 100 jumped
along with its European counterparts on strong French
manufacturing data, while a sharp rise for AstraZeneca after a
2019 forecast upgrade and a slide in sterling amid Brexit woes
also lent support.
    The blue-chip index         climbed 0.9% to a near one-month
high, taking home gains for the fourth consecutive session and
outshining the European benchmark. 
    A sell-off in the pound ahead of the European Union's
decision on whether to grant Britain another Brexit extension
and amid risks of a possible general election led the
domestically focussed FTSE 250         0.1% lower.              
    The past two weeks have taken UK shares from pillar to post
with major Brexit developments including Prime Minister Boris
Johnson striking a new Brexit deal with the bloc and lawmakers
at home forcing his hand into asking for another extension to
the divorce.
    Reflecting the anxiety ahead of EU's decision on the way
forward, a sub-index of homebuilders              - a sector
considered among most vulnerable to the British economy - dipped
1% on its fourth straight session in the red.    
    UK blue-chips, on the other hand, accelerated early gains as
a weakening in the local currency boosted dollar earners in the
index including GlaxoSmithKline Plc         and HSBC Holdings
Plc         .
    The bourse was already cheery after a survey showed French
business activity picked up more than expected in October. 
    The FTSE 100, whose components rake in more than two-thirds
of their earnings in U.S. dollars, is on course for its best
weekly performance since early February, as uncertainties over
the course of UK's EU departure have dented the value of
    AstraZeneca Plc         contributed to nearly one-third of
the gains for FTSE 100 after the pharmaceutical firm raised its
annual product sales forecast for the second time this year. The
stock jumped nearly 6% on its best day in three months.
    Analytics and decision tools provider Relx Plc         and
industrial software company Aveva Group Plc         added 4% and
5%, respectively, following trading updates.
    "There's not been a huge catalyst for markets this week.
Earnings are largely topping beaten-down estimates. U.S.-China
and Brexit are in limbo," Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson said.
    On the other end of the spectrum was Royal Bank of Scotland
Group Plc         that skidded 3.3% as it swung to a
third-quarter loss due to a fresh 900 million pound provision to
settle mis-selling claims. 
    Woodford Patient Capital Trust Plc         , formerly run by
once-star money manager Neil Woodford, surged 25% as the company
appointed asset manager Schroders Plc         as its new
portfolio manager.             
    Metro Bank Plc          jumped 11.5%, despite a grim
third-quarter earnings report, with a trader saying retail
investors saw a buying opportunity after the troubled lender's
CEO hinted that the company could consider takeover offers.

 (Reporting by Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru;
Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Lisa Shumaker)
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