London's FTSE 100 edged higher on Friday, boosted by earnings updates from AstraZeneca and Smurfit Kappa, while optimism around a speedy recovery from pandemic-led crash set the blue-chip index for its biggest monthly gain since November 2020.
UK-listed shares of Europe's largest paper packaging producer Smurfit Kappa Group jumped 3.8% after it posted a 6% increase in first-quarter revenue on strong packaging demand.
The index was further supported by tobacco makers British American Tobacco (BATS.L) and Imperial Brands (IMB.L) which rose more than 2% each after their peer Swedish Match (SWMA.ST) reported upbeat quarterly profit.
The domestically focused midcap FTSE 250 index (.FTMC) advanced 0.2%.
After the U.S. Federal Reserve maintained a status quo on its monetary policy on Wednesday, investors' focus has now turned towards Bank of England's meeting on May 6 where it will likely ease its foot off the stimulus pedal and slow bond purchases as Britain's economy rebounds. read more
In February, the BoE forecast the economy would grow 5% this year after slumping by almost 10% in 2020.
"The combination of a shallower Q1 contraction, faster exit from lockdown, a more supportive near-term fiscal policy, and a better external backdrop should see the Bank push up its 2021 projections closer to 7% from 5%," wrote Deutsche Bank economist Sanjay Raja in a note.
"An inevitable growth upgrade would give the monetary policy committee (MPC) enough ammunition to start QE taper."
Both the UK indexes are on track for their biggest and third consecutive monthly gains so far this year as earnings recovered and businesses reopened on the back of speedy vaccine rollouts and supportive government policies.
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