FTSE 100 hits record closing high amid AstraZeneca boost
London's top-flight index climbed to record heights after shares soared at drugs giant AstraZeneca following a major breakthrough for a lung cancer medicine.
The FTSE 100 Index rose 48.76 points to a record all-time closing high of 7,435.39, as the market also enjoyed an uplift from the UK General Election.
AstraZeneca said that trials of Imfinzi showed it "significantly reduces the risk of disease worsening or death" in lung cancer sufferers.
The randomised trial produced "highly encouraging" results for patients with stage three lung cancer for whom surgery was not an option, according to the firm.
Shares in the pharmaceuticals giant jumped 9%, or 428.5p to 5,176p, after investors warmed to the potential of Imfinzi, which could help drive income at the firm.
Jasper Lawler, senior market analyst at London Capital Group, said: "Pharmaceutical companies top and tailed the FTSE on Friday.
"AstraZeneca was the stand-out performer after reporting a successful cancer drug trial.
"Hikma shares were still floundering following the delayed approval of its new asthma drug."
He added: "The UK General Election continues to be a boost to the FTSE 100, which has been tip-toeing higher for the past two weeks. The UK may also be benefiting from renewed investor confidence in Europe."
Across Europe, Germany's Dax and the Cac 40 in France both closed 0.4% higher.
On the currency markets, the pound continued to struggle following the Bank of England's decision on Thursday to cut its growth forecasts for 2017 amid warnings of a sharper-than-expected squeeze on household income.
However, the Bank, which held interest rates at 0.25%, sought to assure that real wages would start to rise after this year and growth would also pick up, but stressed that this was largely based on a "smooth" Brexit transition.
Sterling was down 0.2% against the US dollar at 1.286, while the pound slipped by 0.7% versus the euro to 1.178.
The price of oil was flat at 50.75 US dollars a barrel despite mounting concerns that rising US crude production will exacerbate the global supply glut.
In UK stocks, shares in Entertainment One took a tumble after the Peppa Pig owner unveiled a £47 million hit to profits as part of a restructuring programme.
Shares in the FTSE 250 firm were down 6.6p to 236.9p, as it revealed that the £27 million one-off cost will come as a result of the reshaping of its film division, which includes transitioning its physical distribution activities towards a "digital content focused business model".
Entertainment One will also book a £20 million charge from renegotiating a new distribution arrangement.
Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, said: "(Entertainment One) is trying to rely less on the porcine kids show and develop its film division.
"This ought to be good for underlying earnings and cash flow going forward, but for the time being it's going to cost."
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were AstraZeneca up 428.5p to 5,176p, BT Group up 8.1p to 305.95p, Vodafone up 4.8p to 211.1p, GlaxoSmithKline up 37.5p to 1,665p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 Index were Provident Financial down 73p to 3,192p, Hikma Pharmaceuticals down 36p to 1,759p, Persimmon down 45p to 2,360p, Glencore down 5.1p to 285p.