UK’s FTSE 100 logs first gain in four as energy stocks advance

By Shashwat Chauhan and Khushi Singh

(Reuters) -The UK’s FTSE 100 closed higher on Thursday as energy stocks gained, while investors parsed more economic data to gauge the state of the economy a day after Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt announced an interim budget.

The commodities-heavy FTSE 100 gained 0.2%, as heavyweight energy stocks added 1.3% after falling over 2% in the previous session.

The midcap index on the other hand, closed flat.

Travel and leisure and personal goods were among the worst performing of the major FTSE 350 sectors.

Trading volumes were thin in the absence of U.S. participants, as markets in the United States were closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Meanwhile, a preliminary survey showed British companies reported a marginal return to growth in November after three months of contraction but the downturn in orders continued in the face of higher interest rates and weak demand.

“To be fair, the economic news has been a little better of late: the improved PMIs add to the rise in payrolls and house prices that we have seen of late,” wrote Elizabeth Martins, senior economist at HSBC.

“However, even with this slight improvement, the PMIs show an economy stagnating at best.”

The pound rose to its highest against the dollar since early September, while British government bond prices fell sharply.

The reading comes a day after Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt announced measures to boost weak economic growth.

Among individual stocks, Virgin Money slid 6.5% after the British bank missed full-year profit forecasts.

Telecoms group Vodafone and energy utility company National Grid were among the top decliners on the FTSE 100, falling 5.4% and 2.8% respectively, as their shares traded ex-dividend.

A Reuters report stated that Barclays is working on plans to save as much as 1 billion pounds ($1.25 billion), which could involve cutting as many as 2,000 jobs. Shares of the lender were up 0.2%.

(Reporting by Khushi Singh and Shashwat Chauhan in Bengaluru; Editing by Mrigank Dhaniwala, Sonia Cheema and Sharon Singleton)