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U.K. Stocks Climb to Seven-Week High as AstraZeneca Gains

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April 24 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. stocks rose to their highest level in almost seven weeks as AstraZeneca Plc climbed amid speculation it may be a buyout target and investors weighed quarterly results.

AstraZeneca rose for a fifth day as speculation it may be a buyout target offset first-quarter profit that missed analysts’ estimates. Anglo American Plc increased 1.3 percent after reporting that quarterly output for copper, coal and nickel beat projections. Unilever Plc fell the most in almost two months after saying revenue growth slowed from the fourth quarter.

The FTSE 100 Index gained 28.26 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,703 at the close in London, after earlier rising as much as 0.8 percent. The gauge is down 2.4 percent since reaching a 14-year high on Feb. 24 amid tension between Russia and Ukraine. The broader FTSE All-Share Index climbed 0.4 percent, and Ireland’s ISEQ Index fell 0.7 percent.

“Concern over the Ukrainian situation is creeping back into the market,” Keith Bowman, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown Plc in London, said by telephone. “Broadly speaking corporate earnings news have been positive for investors, but Unilever’s quarterly update failed to inspire.”

Shares pared earlier gains as President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine against continuing its anti-separatist offensive. Government troops killed five rebels and prompted Russia’s military to begin new drills on the two nations’ border.

U.S. Data

In the U.S., a Commerce Department report showed durable-goods orders advanced 2.6 percent in March from a revised 2.1 percent increase in February. That was more than economists had forecast. Initial jobless claims rose to a more-than-estimated 329,000 in the week ended April 19, according to separate data.

The volume of shares changing hands in FTSE 100-listed companies was 21 percent lower than the average of the last 30 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

AstraZeneca rose 3.3 percent to 4,175 pence, the highest price since at least 1993. Shares have rallied for five days amid reports saying Pfizer Inc. discussed acquiring the London-based drugmaker in informal, now-discontinued talks. Investors may be reacting to the news about the progress of AstraZeneca’s drugs, including new treatments for lung and ovarian cancer, which might make the company a more appealing buyout candidate, said Fabian Wenner, an analyst with Kepler Cheuvreux in Zurich.

Profit Decline

The U.K’s second-biggest drugmaker said profit excluding certain items fell 16 percent to $1.95 billion, or $1.17 a share, missing the average analyst estimate for $1.21.

Anglo American added 1.3 percent to 1,566.5 pence. The miner said that copper production climbed 18 percent to 202,000 metric tons because of higher ore grades at the Los Bronces and Collahuasi mines in Chile. It also raised its copper-output forecast for 2014 to 710,000 tons to 730,000 tons from 700,000 tons to 720,000 tons.

Kenmare Resources Plc surged 10 percent to 13.5 pence after saying ore mined in the first quarter rose 81 percent from the same period last year. Market conditions should improve in the second quarter, the minerals producer said.

Unilever lost 1.7 percent to 2,590 pence. The maker of Magnum ice cream and TRESemme shampoo said sales growth slowed to 3.6 percent in the first three months of the year from 4.1 percent in the fourth quarter, due mainly to weaker conditions in emerging markets.

To contact the reporter on this story: Inyoung Hwang in London at ihwang7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Cecile Vannucci at cvannucci1@bloomberg.net Srinivasan Sivabalan

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