Britain’s top share index edged higher on Thursday, boosted by rises in pharmaceutical and mining stocks, while retailers were also in favour after a well-received update from Marks and Spencer (MKS.L).
The FTSE 100 was up 32.00 points, or 0.5 percent, at 6,193.63 by 0930 BST, rising for a second straight session though the index is roughly flat so far in April.
Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) rose 1.4 percent in strong volumes of 70 percent of its 90-day average, after it posted a decline in sales that was less severe than expected.
Traders took heart from new Chief Executive Steve Rowe’s pledge to turn around its ailing clothing division, as well as continued strength in its better-performing food division.
“He is an executive that we are minded to back, one with the commitment, energy and insight to demonstrably take M&S on a better course, something for which long-standing shareholders’ pine,” said Clive Black, head of research at Shore Capital, in a note, retaining a “buy” rating on the stock.
Supermarket Sainsbury (SBRY.L) also rose, up 1.6 percent after being upgraded to “outperform” from “underperform” by Credit Suisse, saying the food retail sector is a recovery story and that the grocer’s bid for Argos-owner Home Retail (HOME.L) is “financially and strategically inspired.”
Miners were among top gainers, benefiting from favourable broker coverage as well as a steadying copper price.
BHP Billiton (BLT.L) and Anglo American (AAL.L) each rose 3 percent after JP Morgan lifted its target price on both stocks. Anglo American also benefited from a target price hike by Credit Suisse.
AstraZeneca (AZN.L) rallied 2.2 percent, taking gains over the last two sessions to 6.7 percent and lifting shares to their highest level since February.
Pharmaceuticals saw demand on Wednesday after Pfizer (PFE.N) pulled out of a deal to buy Allergan (AGN.N), stoking rumours of fresh deal-making in the sector.
Fuelling demand for AstraZeneca on Thursday was an upgrade by Societe Generale, who lifted their target price and maintained a “buy” rating late on Wednesday.
Top faller was Pearson (PSON.L), down 5.1 percent as it traded without entitlement to its latest dividend payout.
Worldpay (WPG.L) also fell, down 2.7 percent to 275p after a top shareholder in the payment processor sold part of its stake for 269p.
The stock had traded well over double its 90-day average by 0830 GMT.