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FTSE supported by financials, AstraZeneca

FTSE supported by financials, AstraZeneca
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By Danilo Masoni

MILAN (Reuters) – UK shares rose on Thursday as financials rallied, tracking strength in their European peers and heavyweight drugmaker AstraZeneca <AZN.L> was lifted by a strong update.

The FTSE 100 <.FTSE> rose 0.3 percent by 0955 GMT, as relief about the U.S. midterm vote delivering no big surprises continued, while the domestically focussed mid-cap index rose 0.3 percent.

“With the Dow Jones posting some big gains on Wednesday, the post-US midterm growth rolled over into Thursday,” said Connor Campbell, analyst at Spreadex in London.

AstraZeneca <AZN.L> rose 2 percent after strong demand for its new drugs — especially those for cancer — drove a return to sales growth in the third quarter and the drugmaker said it now anticipated years of sustained improvement.

“This was a decent set of results with the reiteration of guidance largely expected. That said the continued outperformance from the new product launches and core diabetes portfolio should be well received,” said Liberum analyst Graham Doyle.

In the same sector, which is seen benefiting from the U.S. vote’s outcome, Hikma <HIK.L> rallied 6.8 percent after it raised full-year revenue expectations for its key injectables division, as it supplies more opioid painkillers amid a shortage in the United States.

Analysts say a split Congress that is unlikely to significantly cut government healthcare programmes or reduce drug prices in the world’s biggest and most profitable market.

Coca-Cola HBC <CCH.L> rose 5 percent to the top of the FTSE 100 after the soft drink bottler reported slightly higher-than-expected quarterly revenue growth, driven by higher volumes.

Inmarsat <ISA.L> however fell 6.6 percent after trimming its full-year revenues guidance to the lower end of its previous target.

Among other companies reporting results was Britain’s No. 2 supermarket Sainsbury <SBRY.L>, which is seeking is seeking regulatory approval to take over rival Asda.

Its shares rose as much as 1.8 percent after cost savings helped it beat forecasts with a 20 percent increase in first-half profit. They later pared gains and were down 0.5 percent.

Jefferies said the update was largely uneventful and that developments relating to the 7.4 billion-pound Asda takeover were key.

“We believe the market efficiently prices in the possibility of the deal being blocked and that of an approval being granted with fairly extensive store disposal requirements,” they said.

Financials provided the biggest boost to the FTSE, with shares in Lloyds <LLOY.L>, HSBC <HSBA.L> and Royal Bank of Scotland <RBS.L> all rising more than 1 percent as the broader European banking sector rose on the back of strong results.

Among top fallers was Marks & Spencer <MKS.L> after HSBC cut its price target on the stock.

(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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