FTSE 100 shrugs off Brexit fears to swing into the black

London's top flight index battled back from four-month lows as it made a cautious swing into positive territory after being hammered by Brexit fears.

The FTSE 100 Index was 43.3 points higher at 5966.8, as it clawed back some of the near-£100 billion that was wiped off in the previous four sessions, with the top tier tumbling below 6000 on Tuesday for the first time since February.

The miners inspired the resurgence as they fell back into favour following a sharp sell-off in previous sessions. Glencore and Antofagasta topped the biggest risers, climbing more than 6%.

The upward lift from commodity stocks came despite benchmark London Brent crude slipping 10 cents or 0.2% to 49.73 US dollars a barrel amid a surprise rise in US crude inventories.

Markets paused for breath after the recent Brexit-led declines, with the spotlight falling instead on the latest decision on US interest rates due after the close in London.

US policymakers are expected to keep rates on hold amid renewed concerns over the global economy, but comments will be scoured for clues as to the possibility of a hike in July.

Across Europe, the Cac 40 in France was up 1.4% ahead of the announcement and Germany's Dax stepped up 0.9%.

Sterling, which fell to two-month lows against the US dollar and the euro earlier this week, also picked up lost ground, rising 0.5% to 1.418.

The pound is likely to have been boosted in part by strong UK employment data, with unemployment falling to an eight-year low as the numbers in work continue to reach record levels.

The jobless total was cut by 20,000 in the quarter to April to 1.67 million, the lowest since the spring of 2008, the Office for National Statistics said.

The pound was also 0.2% up against the euro at 1.261.

In stocks, referendum worries were still in sharp focus in the housebuilding sector after Berkeley Group revealed sales had plunged by 20% in the first five months of the year due to Brexit uncertainty.

Berkeley shares dropped 1%, down 36p to 2954p, after the group laid bare the impact of the vote, saying it had also put new development launches on hold until later in the year.

It sparked further share falls among other housebuilding stocks, which have been sent reeling in recent weeks amid mounting worries that Brexit could send property prices falling and impact sales.

Taylor Wimpey also dropped 2.4p to 170.7p.

Elsewhere, Poundland surged higher after South-African furniture retailer Steinhoff International Holdings said it was considering a takeover bid for the discount retail chain.

Steinhoff - which owns UK furniture firm Harveys - gave little detail on its interest in Poundland, saying only that it will make a further announcement "in due course".

It has until 5pm on July 13 to make a firm bid or walk away under City takeover rules.

Shares in Poundland jumped 2%, or 4.3p, to 200p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Glencore up 8.4p to 136.5p, Antofagasta up 25.2p to 419.7p, Anglo American up 31.5p to 631p, BHP Billiton up 32.3p to 822p.

The biggest fallers were Whitbread down 61p to 3847p, Taylor Wimpey down 2.4p to 170.7p, Paddy Power Betfair down 115p to 8860p, Berkeley Group down 36p to 2954p.

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