U.K. Stocks Snap Five-Day Decline as BP, AstraZeneca GainSofia Horta e Costa
U.K. stocks rose, snapping the longest streak of losses in 10 months, as BP Plc and AstraZeneca Plc advanced and Cypriot lawmakers debated measures needed to win a 10 billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout.
BP rallied the most in 10 weeks after saying it will buy back $8 billion of shares. AstraZeneca, the U.K.’s second-largest drugmaker, climbed to a 2 1/2-year high. Esure Group Plc advanced 5.9 percent on its first day of trading in London. Mulberry Group Plc plunged 17 percent after the luxury-handbag maker forecast full-year sales and profit will miss estimates.
The benchmark FTSE 100 Index rose 4.21 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,392.76 at the close in London, the first increase in six days. The gauge still retreated 1.5 percent this week, halting a five-week rally, as euro-area ministers proposed an unprecedented levy on Cyprus bank deposits to help pay for the island nation’s rescue package.
“If you’re a realistic investor, even the worst-case scenario is not a big deal,” Michael Woischneck, who oversees about $518 million as senior equities manager at Lampe Asset Management, said in an interview from Dusseldorf, Germany, referring to the situation in Cyprus. “Cyprus is not that much entwined with our economies, so its not that dangerous. It’s not like Greece. This time we could really weigh the choice of letting them go bankrupt.”
The broader FTSE All-Share Index also added 0.1 percent today. Ireland’s ISEQ Index dropped 0.1 percent after rallying to the highest level in 4 1/2 years this week.
In Cyprus, talks with the so-called troika of international creditors are in the final stages of negotiations, according to government spokesman Christos Stylianides. Euro-area finance ministers expect a proposal from Cyprus “as rapidly as possible” to raise the 5.8 billion euros needed to trigger the emergency loans, they said late yesterday.
The European Central Bank, which makes up the troika along with the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, issued an end-March 25 deadline for a deal before it cuts off emergency funds for the island’s banks.
The race for a compromise comes after a week of tumult marked by Cypriot lawmakers’ rejection of a tax on bank deposits. That was demanded by the other 16 euro countries and the International Monetary Fund as a condition for the bailout.
German business confidence declined in March for the first time since October, according to a report from the Munich-based Ifo institute today. Its business climate index, which is based on a survey of 7,000 executives, slipped to 106.7 this month from 107.4 in February, while economists in a Bloomberg survey had forecast a gain to 107.8.
BP, the third-largest stock in the FTSE 100 by weighting, gained 1.9 percent to 457.7 pence, the largest increase since Jan. 9. BP’s first share buyback since 2008 will return the original amount invested in Russian oil producer TNK-BP 10 years ago, the London-based company said.
AstraZeneca advanced 3.3 percent to 3,236 pence, the highest price since October 2010. The drugmaker gained credibility on plans to reshape research and development and return to growth, Morgan Stanley analyst Peter Verdult wrote in note following yesterday’s investor day.
AstraZeneca, the 10th-biggest stock in the FTSE 100, rallied 3.1 percent yesterday after announcing plans to cut 2,300 sales and administrative jobs and narrow its research focus.
Esure gained 5.9 percent to 307 pence on the insurer’s first day of trading after its initial public offering. The company raised 604 million pounds ($920 million) as it offered a 50 percent stake to investors, selling about 208 million shares for 290 pence apiece.
Phoenix Group Holdings surged 7.3 percent to 649.5 pence, its biggest gain since January. The manager of closed life-insurance funds increased its proposed final dividend by 27 percent, and raised its cash-generation target by 200 million pounds to 3.5 billion pounds through 2016, according to a statement today.
Mulberry, whose handbags include the $1,350 Bayswater bag, plummeted 17 percent to 1,024 pence, its biggest retreat in almost five months. The Somerset, England-based company said reduced tourist spending in London will cause full-year sales to fall to about 26 million pounds in the year ending March 31. The average estimate of three analysts compiled by Bloomberg was for 30.7 million pounds.
Burberry Group Plc, the luxury-goods company whose Chief Financial Officer Stacey Cartwright departs in July after nine years with the company, declined 4.1 percent to 1,330 pence, the lowest price since Jan. 14.
Homeserve Plc, the repair-service provider being investigated by the Financial Services Authority, slid 5.2 percent to 211.4 pence after saying it will cuts jobs in the U.K., where it’s losing customers.
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