Eyeing Brexit deal, UK stocks notch up best day in two weeks

FILE PHOTO: A street cleaning operative walks past the London Stock Exchange Group building in the City of London financial district, whilst British stocks tumble as investors fear that the coronavirus outbreak could stall the global economy, in London, Britain, March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

(Reuters) - London-listed stocks logged their best day in nearly two weeks on Wednesday on signs of progress in securing a new Brexit trade deal and optimism over a global recovery aided by the rollout of coronavirus vaccines.

The domestically focused FTSE 250 index jumped 1.2%, rising for a third straight session, helped by a 10.5% surge in shares of Dixons Carphone’s after the electricals retailer posted a big rise in first-half profit.

The European Union’s chief executive said headway had been made in the long-running trade talks with Britain and that the next few days would be critical ahead of an end-of-year deadline.

Latest business surveys showed Britain’s economy limped back to growth in December following November’s four-week lockdown in England, although hospitality businesses still struggled with restrictions.

“Today’s UK PMI release provides a ray of hope in what may otherwise be a tough winter,” said Jai Malhi, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

“Investors will be buoyed by the resilience in these surveys and with a vaccine now being slowly rolled out, any weakness in the near-term data may cause less of a stir for markets than it would have without the vaccine.”

A slew of stimulus measures coupled with vaccine optimism has helped London’s stock indexes recover from multi-year lows hit in March. But recent gains have been capped by fears surrounding the near-term economic damage from the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index firmed about 0.9%, with Wall Street also edging up on signs that another fiscal stimulus package was imminent, while investors also awaited the U.S. Federal Reserve’s policy decision later in the day. [MKTS/GLOB]

Among individual movers, Fashion retailer Superdry jumped 9.6% as it said interim Chief Executive Officer Julian Dunkerton would take the top job on a permanent basis.

Reporting by Medha Singh and Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V, Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Mark Heinrich