Adam Samson, Naomi Rovnick and Katie Martin
Sterling traded just below its 2020 peak against the US dollar after Brexit negotiators reached a historic UK-EU trade pact.
The pound was up 0.5 per cent to $1.3557 in New York dealings, leaving it close to the 2020 peak of $1.3624 struck earlier this month. Britain’s currency also advanced against the euro, gaining 0.4 per cent to €1.1121.
“Even though a deal will need to be voted on by MPs in Westminster and MEPs in Brussels a wave of relief has already washed over the London market,” said Susannah Streeter, senior investment analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.
In equities, London’s benchmark FTSE 100 closed up 0.1 per cent prior to the announcement, with Lloyds Banking Group leading the pack with a gain of 4 per cent. The FTSE 250, which is more sensitive to the outlook for the economy because of its heavier weighting towards domestic-focused groups, rose 1.2 per cent. The mid-cap index has gained more than 18 per cent during the final three months of the year, leaving it on track for its best quarter since 2009.
European stock markets also inched higher on Thursday, with the regional Stoxx 600 benchmark gaining 0.2 per cent.
Investors now feel “an element of relief that one of the main uncertainties for 2021 is clearing”, said Cristina Matti, head of European small and mid-cap equities and country strategies at Amundi. “Investors feel more confident we can get back to our normal job of forecasting companies’ prospects in a more stable environment.”
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