January 26, 2018 / 10:50 AM / a year ago

UK stocks end two days of currency-driven declines

LONDON (Reuters) - British shares .FTSE rose across the board on Friday as buyers returned to the market following two days of declines driven by a strengthening sterling.

A worker shelters from the rain under a Union Flag umbrella as he passes the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain, October 1, 2008. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

The FTSE index dipped briefly after the pound rose on figures which showed an unexpected acceleration in British economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The index recovered swiftly and closed up 0.6 percent with healthcare shares contributing most to the broader rise.

AstraZeneca (AZN.L) added 1.9 percent after it reported that its inhaler for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) showed improved lung function in a late stage trial.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) rose too, up 1.5 percent as its shingles vaccine moved a step closer to the market after a European Medicines Agency (EMA) panel gave a positive opinion on the drug.

Online gambling firm GVC (GVC.L) fell 2.8 percent, after making a provision of about 200 million euros for a tax bill from Greek authorities.

Energy was one of the only sectors to end in negative territory, with BP (BP.L) and Royal Dutch Shell down just shy of 0.1 percent.

Britain’s FTSE is the only major European index to have fallen (-0.3 percent) this year while others have rallied. France’s CAC 40 is up 4 percent and Germany’s DAX has gained 3.2 percent, helped higher by a more marked pick-up in business activity on the continent and receding political risks.

Market analysts said the UK’s underperformance and a slightly weaker pound had prompted some opportunistic “dip buying” on Friday.

“You’ve actually had some downside momentum for the past few days,” said Chris Beauchamp at IG. “The number of stocks above their 20 and 50 day moving averages has been declining, but this usually signifies a buying opportunity, and that appears to be materialising this morning.”

Reporting by Tom Pfeiffer; Additional reporting by Julien Ponthus; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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