FTSE scales four-month high as Trump brightens trade view

(Reuters) - London’s FTSE 100 hit a near four-month high on Wednesday as recent risk-on sentiment was bolstered after U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington and Beijing were close to a “phase one” trade deal, while an impressive forecast lifted BAT shares.

FILE PHOTO: Traders looks at financial information on computer screens on the IG Index trading floor in London, Britain February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

The main index .FTSE added 0.4% on its fourth straight day in positive territory, as Asia-focussed HSBC HSBA.L and miners .FTNMX1770 gained on the prospect of an initial U.S.-China trade accord.

British American Tobacco BATS.L was the biggest boost among blue-chips, rising 3.1% after it forecast annual revenue to grow in the upper half of its long-term target range.

The FTSE 250 .FTMC index of midcap companies also rose 0.4%, closing at its highest since July, 2018, as hopes of an end to the Brexit saga through an election attracted traders to the domestic stocks.

The index has advanced roughly 4% since Oct. 29, when parliament approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s call for a general election.

Markets see a prospective victory for Johnson’s Conservative Party as the most likely scenario for Brexit to be delivered by the Jan. 31 deadline. As such, the pound weakened slightly after polls showed the Conservative lead was narrowing.

However, an 8% fall in publisher Future Plc FUTR.L weighed on the midcaps following a discounted share placement. Its shares marked their worst one-day performance since mid-June.

The broader mood was firmly upbeat after Trump’s comments on trade following a telephone conversation between senior U.S. and Chinese negotiators, though CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson hollered caution as the Dec. 15 deadline for new tariffs draws closer.

“It still remains unclear what the timing is likely to be on the agreement of a phase one deal,” Hewson said. “However with three weeks until Dec. 15, it’s not hard to imagine that it is highly unlikely that we’ll get anything tangible before that.”

Washington’s support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong may also be a sticking point in negotiations.

Among smaller stocks, holiday package provider On The Beach OTB.L, which has said it will gain market share in the wake of Thomas Cook's collapse, climbed 3% higher after reporting a rise in adjusted profits.

A standout loser across the board was FastJet FJET.L, which plunged 32% to a new record low after it said it wanted to sell its Zimbabwean operations and raise capital, which could help the low-cost carrier make it until 2021.

(Graphic: FTSE link: ).

Reporting by Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Shailesh Kuber, Uttaresh.V and Giles Elgood