LONDON: UK's blue-chip index hit three-week highs on Wednesday on hopes that major central banks will tone down their hawkish rhetoric, while news that Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will delay a keenly awaited budget did little to spook investors.
The FTSE 100 index reversed course to end the session up 0.6%, its strongest close since Oct. 5, while the domestically focussed FTSE 250 index rose 1.5% to touch a fresh one-month high. A smaller-than-expected interest rate hike from the Bank of Canada raised hopes that major central banks will soon slow their pace of monetary policy tightening as signs emerge of slowing economic growth.
Meanwhile, Sunak delayed the announcement of a keenly awaited plan for repairing the country's public finances until Nov. 17, two-and-a-half weeks later than previously planned. The news briefly raised British borrowing costs, but there was no repeat of the panic bond selling caused by his predecessor Liz Truss's tax-cutting plan.
"Investors are mindful that it was the unnecessary rush to announce big tax cuts which caused such tumultuous times for the Truss administration and what they crave now is caution and stability," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown. "The premium slammed on UK assets by reckless policies of his predecessor appears to be slowly lifting, but hefty challenges for team Sunak remain."
UK financial markets were roiled earlier this month, with the pound hitting 2008 lows after Truss announced a series of unfunded tax cuts in September. Among companies that reported results, Standard Chartered fell 5.1% despite a 40% surge in profit after the Asia-exposed bank said the outlook for China's real estate sector remains "challenging".
Barclays slipped 0.3% after it set aside a hefty charge for potentially soured loans, highlighting a tough outlook for borrowing. Reckitt Benckiser dropped 4.1% after the consumer goods company reported a decline in sales volumes in the third quarter and warned of pressure on consumers globally.
AstraZeneca Plc jumped 2.9% after the drugmaker said its experimental drug Capivasertib met the main goals of a breast cancer study.