By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) — U.K. stocks climbed for a third straight day on Thursday, after better-than-expected growth data for the country, and with heavyweights British American Tobacco PLC and Vodafone Group PLC helping drive the benchmark index higher.
The FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -0.38% rose 0.2% to close at 6,442.59.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev brainwashed?
Friends of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev say he must have been brainwashed by his brother. Has the brainwashing defense ever worked? If convicted, could it spare Tsarnaev the death penalty? WSJ's Jason Bellini has "The Short Answer." Image: Associated Press
On top of investors’ minds on Thursday, the Office for National Statistics said the U.K. economy avoided a triple-dip recession in the first quarter. GDP rose 0.3%, beating expectations of a 0.1% improvement.
The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD -0.2920% rallied after the news, rising to $1.5430 from trading around $1.53 ahead of the data and up from $1.5265 in late North America trade on Wednesday.
“A continuation of growth in the second quarter is by no means assured. The euro-zone crisis is not only hurting exports but is also having a damaging effect on global business confidence,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, in a note.
“At the same time, weak domestic spending and investment by businesses can be linked to lingering uncertainty about the economic outlook and a lack of lending. Consumer spending is meanwhile being subdued by job worries, low pay and high inflation,” he added.
Investors also digested earnings results from major FTSE components. Shares of British American Tobacco PLC /zigman2/quotes/209116881/delayed UK:BATS -0.71% /zigman2/quotes/210207837/composite BTI -0.86% added 1.2%, after the firm said first-quarter revenue went up 5% at constant exchange rates. Additionally, the board said it’s confident of another year of earnings growth in line with long-term strategic goals.
Shares of Vodafone Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/202484985/delayed UK:VOD -0.03% /zigman2/quotes/202862751/composite VOD -0.59% added 1.7%, after reports said Verizon Communications Inc. /zigman2/quotes/204980236/composite VZ -0.38% plans to bid for total ownership of joint venture Verizon Wireless.
Mining firms were also among notable advancers, tracking metals prices higher. Randgold Resources Ltd. jumped 5.4%, Antofagasta PLC /zigman2/quotes/200173667/delayed UK:ANTO -0.08% added 4.6% and Fresnillo PLC /zigman2/quotes/201300065/delayed UK:FRES +3.17% climbed 3.5%.
On a more downbeat note, AstraZeneca PLC /zigman2/quotes/203048482/delayed UK:AZN -0.58% /zigman2/quotes/200304487/composite AZN -1.81% lost 1.9%, after the drug maker reported a 36% drop in first-quarter pretax profit, falling short of analysts’ expectations.
Unilever PLC /zigman2/quotes/205449809/delayed UK:ULVR +0.44% /zigman2/quotes/204685760/composite UL +5.46% slid 3%. The consumer-goods firm reported first-quarter sales growth below expectations, as slowing North America growth and a weak start to ice cream purchases in Europe added pressure.
Outside the main index in London, shares of Kazakhmys PLC /zigman2/quotes/208098927/delayed UK:KAZ +0.19% jumped 4.3%. The miner said it’s on track to meet its full-year copper output target.