By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch
U.K. stocks closed higher on Thursday, boosted by a round of well-received corporate updates and as buyers stepped in to pick up shares after a five-session losing streak.
On the economic docket, British retail sales fell less than expected in October, helping lift the pound against both the euro and dollar.
What markets are doing : The FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +0.76% added 0.2% to end at 7,386.94, after ending at its lowest level since Sept. 28 on Wednesday following five straight sessions of losses.
The pound /zigman2/quotes/210561263/realtime/sampled GBPUSD +0.6407% bought $1.3197, up from $1.3170 late Wednesday in New York. Against the euro, sterling /zigman2/quotes/210561278/realtime/sampled GBPEUR -0.1476% strengthened to €1.1206 compared with €1.1170 on Wednesday.
What’s driving the markets: For the market overall, traders ventured back into stocks after a five-day hiatus, which also boosted stocks in Europe and the U.S.
However, the gain for the FTSE 100 was much smaller than those seen across Europe, where the Stoxx Europe 600 index /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP +0.89% ended 0.8% higher.
“Once again the FTSE had to sit at the sidelines and watch its peers party, with the U.K. index missing out on the wider market rebound,” said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, in a note.
“There were two main factors keeping the FTSE from joining in with the day’s gains: the pound and the commodity sector. The former managed to find the positives — of which there were few — in the first annual retail sales decline since 2013, rising 0.2% against the dollar and 0.5% against the euro as October’s month-on-month figure came in higher than forecast,” he added.
The pound staged a turnaround to trade higher after the Office for National Statistics said retail sales slipped 0.3% on the year in October, which was better than the 0.5% expected by economists, according to FactSet. Month-on-month sales rose 0.3%, beating the 0.1% forecast.
The report comes after data earlier this week showed the unemployment rate remained at 4.3% and wages rose 2.2% in the three months through September, while inflation stayed at a five-year high in October at 3%.
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Stock movers: Shares of 3i Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/202254899/delayed UK:III +0.32% rose 2% after the international investment manager it is on track to deliver another strong year of growth in its private-equity portfolio.
British Land Co. PLC /zigman2/quotes/210491538/delayed UK:BLND +1.36% added 3.7% after the real-estate company said it swung to a first-half profit.
Prudential PLC /zigman2/quotes/200530572/delayed UK:PRU +1.22% rose 1.1% as the insurer said it continues to benefit from powerful demand drivers and its established platforms in Asia, the U.S., and the U.K. and Europe.
On a downbeat note, shares of GKN PLC slid 4.8% after the engineering group ousted its CEO designate Kevin Cummings amid problems at the aerospace unit he ran.
Mediclinic International PLC /zigman2/quotes/201361237/delayed UK:MDC -0.26% lost 2.7% after the private hospital company said it swung to a first-half pretax loss.