London stocks firm amid European holiday

GMT 12:45 2015 Friday ,01 May

Arab Today, arab today London stocks firm amid European holiday

London's benchmark FTSE 100 index
London - AFP

Britain's stock market edged ahead Friday in subdued deals with the majority of Europe shut for the May Day holiday long weekend.

Nearing midday, London's benchmark FTSE 100 added 0.17 percent to 6,972.50 points.

On Thursday, Frankfurt's DAX 30 index gained 0.19 percent to 11,454.38 points while the Paris CAC 40 rose 0.14 percent at 5,046.49 points.

Both key eurozone markets will reopen on Monday, when London will have a holiday closure.

"May Day bank holidays in mainland Europe leave the FTSE feeling lonely," said analyst Alastair McCaig at trading firm IG.

European stocks had posted gains Thursday, rebounding from the previous day's losses following news of surprisingly weak first-quarter US economic growth data.

"Trading volumes may be lower today as a result of the bank holiday in much of Europe," added Oanda analyst Craig Erlam.

In foreign exchange activity, the European single currency jumped to a two-month peak at $1.1285 on Friday.

In company news, Britain's state-rescued Lloyds Banking Group said net profits sank by a fifth to 913 million ($1.40 billion, 1.25 billion euros) in the first quarter, after taking a charge against the disposal of its TSB division.

However, Lloyds shares rallied 7.34 percent to 83.06 pence as it also revealed that pretax profit before exceptional items rose 21 percent to £2.2 billion in the first quarter.

On the downside, Prudential shares sagged 0.77 percent to 1,616.50 pence after the group appointed Mike Wells as new chief executive to replace Tidjane Thiam.

Later on Friday, the euro stood at $1.1242, up from $1.1224 in New York late on Thursday.

The single currency has risen after figures showed eurozone inflation at zero in April, the first time it has been out of negative territory in four months, while Spain's economy grew in January-March at its fastest pace since 2007.

Euro-buying has also been supported by hopes Greece will be able to strike a bailout reform deal with its creditors that will help it avert a bailout and remain in the eurozone.

In Asia on Friday, most markets were also shut for public holidays. Tokyo stocks reversed early losses to end slightly higher Friday thanks to a weaker yen.

Sydney rose on news that manufacturing activity in China -- a crucial market for many Australian firms -- recorded another modest expansion in April.

The Nikkei 225 index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange edged up 0.06 percent. Sydney gained 0.43 percent and Wellington advanced 0.10 percent.

China's official purchasing managers index came in at 50.1 last month, the same as in March when the gauge expanded for the first time this year. Anything above 50 points to growth, while anything below indicates a contraction.

While positive, the figures suggest the Asian economy is still struggling with a sharp slowdown.

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