Britain’s FTSE edges higher, pharmaceuticals lead gainers

By Julien Ponthus

LONDON, Nov 27 (Reuters) – British shares edged higher on Monday, reversing early losses thanks to strong rises in pharmaceutical and financial stocks.

At 0948 GMT, Britain’s blue-chip FTSE 100 index was up 0.24 percent at 7,427.39.

Heathcare shares were the top performing sector with GlaxoSmithKline up 1.5 percent after UBS raised its rating on the stocks.

The British government, which unveiled a strategic plan to boost industry in the wake of Brexit, said it had secured a major investment from Merck & Co with Life Sciences one of the key sectors targeted.

“It seems to be giving them a bit of a boost”, said Chris Beauchamp, Chief Market Analyst at IG.

Drugmaker AstraZeneca also rose by 0.5 percent after it announced plans to expand its already substantial Chinese business through a new drug development joint venture with a state-backed private equity fund.

Low cost airline Easyjet was the top riser, adding 2.9 percent after BNP Paribas increased its estimates for the stock and said the demise of Air Berlin was positive for Easyjet.

Financials were also strongly in positive territory with Aviva up 2.1 percent after the Sunday Times reported the British insurer was looking to spend over 1 billion pounds on share buybacks after bulking up its capital reserves.

Prudential and Old Mutual were also rising, up 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent respectively.

British tech firm Micro Focus International was the worst performer with a 2.1 percent fall, as Deutsche Bank cut its rating for the stock.

Centrica, which issued a profit warning last week, also shed 1.3 percent as Bernstein lowered its rating for the group. (Reporting by Julien Ponthus; Editing by Keith Weir)

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