LONDON: British midcaps jumped on Wednesday as hopes of a post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union and further positive vaccine data from drugmaker Pfizer offset concerns about economic damage from surging coronavirus cases.
The domestically focused FTSE 250 index, considered a barometer for Brexit sentiment, closed 0.9% higher, with shares in Micro Focus International surging 31.2% after the software firm forecast a higher annual margin.
The EU’s Trade Commissioner said on Wednesday Britain and the bloc were in the last moments to reach a Brexit trade deal.
After falling nearly 0.6% in morning trade, the blue-chip index ended 0.3% higher, after Pfizer Inc disclosed final results from its late-stage Covid-19 vaccine trial that showed it was 95% effective.
Cyclical stocks such as banks, housebuilders and energy companies rose, although a stronger pound capped gains on the index.
RSA Insurance Group jumped 4.6% after it agreed a 7.2 billion pounds cash takeover offer by overseas rivals.
Halfords Group Plc fell 4.6% after the bicycles and car products retailer sounded cautious about its second-half outlook due to lockdowns.
“There are no guarantees a Brexit agreement will be reached but if one can be secured it would likely be a positive catalyst for UK stocks in the long run - removing a key source of uncertainty which has weighed heavily for more than four years,” said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.—Reuters