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Europe: FTSE rises to 4-week high helped by sterling weakness


[MILAN] Britain's top share index rose on Thursday to a four-week high, helped by a drop in sterling, while continued weakness in basic materials stocks weighed.

The FTSE 100 gained 0.5 per cent as the pound was held back by strength in the dollar following a US rate hike and investors remained nervous on the outcome of Brexit talks.

The index, whose companies make around 70 per cent of their total earnings from overseas, slightly outperformed the broader European market, which was weighed down by worries over Italy's budget.

Among the top FTSE gainers were tobacco group BAT, spirits maker Diageo and drugmaker Shire, which all rose more than 1 percent.

Oil and gas stocks rose as crude prices were pushed higher by the prospect of tighter markets due to US sanctions against major oil exporter Iran.

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"Unless the US releases reserves or Opec commits to further output to plug the gap, oil could continue to crank higher from here," said analyst Neil Wilson.

Oil major BP was the biggest gainer in the sector, up 1.2 per cent, while Shell eased 0.1 per cent.

Airlines suffered from the strength in crude prices.

EasyJet fell 2.6 per cent, further hit by a price target cut from Kepler Cheuvreux. British Airways owner IAG fell 0.6 per cent but Ryanair added 0.3 per cent.

Travel operator TUI rose 2.5 per cent after the company said it was on track to meet its forecasts for earnings growth, shrugging off the impact of a hot summer in its main customer markets.

TUI rival Thomas Cook, which cut its profit forecast this week blaming a heatwave in Europe, gained 1.6 per cent.

"The nature of TUI's tour operating business, which is less exposed to the late booking market where Thomas Cook suffered, and its greater exposure to the high growth and high margin cruise ship business have helped the former perform better," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Miners were broadly lower as copper prices fell further. The sector was the biggest weight to the FTSE on Thursday.

Mid-cap IG Group was a stand-out faller, down 12.8 per cent, after the online financial trading firm said its CEO Peter Hetherington would step down immediately.

Rival CMC Markets fell 2.2 per cent. Both stocks have recently suffered sharp share price falls after weak results and amid tighter regulatory scrutiny.

Shares of Indivior fell sharply for a second straight day, down 13 per cent, as prospects for the British drugmaker's new potential blockbuster drug waned.


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