UK shares close at near three-month highs, mark strong weekly gains

(Reuters) - London-listed shares ended at near three-month highs on Friday, marking their third straight week of gains as optimism around a post-coronavirus economic recovery drove investors back to riskier assets.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask 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

The blue-chip FTSE 100 .FTSE and the mid-cap index .FTMC both ended about 2.3% higher, posting their best week in nearly two months.

An unexpected rise in U.S. non-farm payrolls during May also spurred gains late in the session, with Wall Street indexes rallying on the data. [.N]

EasyJet EZJ.L, cruise operator Carnival CCL.L and British-Airways owner IAG ICAG.L surged as a report said here some European countries were keen to adopt transport corridors, letting British holidaymakers visit Mediterranean resorts without quarantining for 14 days on their return.

Carnival, which is slated to leave the FTSE 100 later in the month, also topped the index for the day with a 19.8% gain.

“Investors continued to bid up airlines despite the sector being in turmoil, betting that they will survive the crisis and that their shares have been oversold,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

British stocks have gained substantially over the past two weeks, with the domestically-focussed mid-cap index rising sharply after the UK government outlined plans to reopen several retail spaces from June.

Shopping centre operator Hammerson PLC HMSO.L was the best weekly performer among British stocks, adding 86% in its best week ever, after it said its flagship destinations in England would reopen from June 15.

The British bluechip index is now about 15% off record highs hit in January, with the gradual reopening of the economy and improving economic indicators inviting more money back into markets.

Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey TW.L rose 1.7% after it said it had seen a surge in interest in buying homes since its English sales centres and show homes came back on line.

Premier Oil PMO.L surged 25.2% after saying it would issue discounted shares to activist hedge fund ARCM representing 8.91% of the company to pay for North Sea assets from BP BP.L.

Reporting by Sagarika Jaisinghani and Shashank Nayar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur and Ken Ferris