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UK shares rise on upbeat earnings updates, trade hopes

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By Reuters
UK shares rise on upbeat earnings updates, trade hopes
A financial trader works at their desk at CMC Markets in the City of London, Britain, April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/Files   -   Copyright  PETER NICHOLLS(Reuters)

By Shashwat Awasthi

(Reuters) – A slew of upbeat earnings updates sent both benchmark British indexes higher on Thursday, while the broader sentiment was buoyed by signs of progress in U.S.-China trade talks.

The FTSE 100 <.FTSE> added 0.4%, supported by miners <.FTNMX1770>, Asia-focused banks, as well as a roughly 4% rise each in insurer RSA <RSA.L> and Auto Trader <AUTOA.L>.

The index hit its highest level in more than five weeks and was tracking its fifth straight session of gains.

The FTSE 250 <.FTMC> outperformed with a 0.8% rise, aided by an 8% surge in luxury carmaker Aston Martin <AML.L> and food ingredients firm Tate & Lyle <TATE.L> after their respective earnings reports.

Global markets, which were beginning to show some signs of frustration due to a lack of details around the trade situation, welcomed news that Washington and Beijing had agreed to cancel tariffs imposed during their months-long trade war in different phases.

Although analysts lauded the news they were cautious, especially after a Reuters report on Wednesday that a proposed meeting between President Donald Trump and Xi Jinping could be delayed until December.

“Ostensibly, disagreements over the signing location are to blame … the delay, though, maybe hiding deeper issues with the trade talks,” OANDA analyst Jeffrey Halley said.

“The financial markets generally seem to be giving both sides the benefit of the doubt for now.”

Shares of insurer Hiscox <HSX.L>, however, underperformed the blue-chip bourse, after bearish actions from brokerages JP Morgan and Jefferies. The stock skidded more than 8% and was on course for its worst day since June 2016.

Ahead of the Bank of England’s meeting, the mid-cap index was also supported by a near 7% jump in Marks & Spencer <MKS.L>. The retailer had said on Wednesday it was planning to improve second-half trading.

Provident Financial <PFG.L> gained 3.5% after saying it expects to add more customers at its home credit business.

The sub-prime lender has vowed to return the unit to profitability after rejecting a hostile takeover offer from smaller rival Non-Standard Finance <NSF.L> in June.

Lagging the mid-caps was engineering firm Senior <SNR.L>, which dropped 8% after warning of a bigger hit from the Boeing 737 MAX groundings to its aerospace unit.

Smaller stocks saw fashion group Superdry <SDRY.L> climb 6.3% after a half-year update. Mall operator Intu Properties <INTUP.L>, which sank 17% in the previous session on the prospects of a cash call, lost another 6% as brokerages downgraded the stock.

(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)