FTSE 100 hits three-month high as Asian-focused stocks shine

The FTSE 100 closed at its highest price since August after seeing a boost from banking stocks and more upbeat sentiment in Asian markets.

London’s top index finished the day up 37.98 points, or 0.51%, at 7,512.

The last time the FTSE 100 closed above the 7,500 mark was on August 22.

Asian-focused businesses HSBC, Prudential and Standard Chartered jumped to the top of the blue-chip index, signalling that investors were more optimistic of the Chinese government loosening its social restrictions and increasing vaccination rates.

This is despite political unrest continuing in China as citizens call for an end to the nation’s Covid rules.

The good mood was not reflected elsewhere in Europe, with the German Dax dropping by 0.19% and the French Cac eking up by just 0.06%.

Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, said: “While the market as a whole has been sceptical today about a positive development from the China protests, the same cannot be said of the FTSE 100.

“Solid gains from Asia-focused names HSBC and Standard Chartered show that at least some investors think the government in China will respond by loosening Covid restrictions, while the lower dollar has boosted commodity prices and thus given the raw materials and energy sector a boost.”

In the US, its top markets started the day on the back foot, with the S&P 500 down 0.35% and Dow Jones down 0.28% after European markets closed.

Meanwhile, sterling had dipped back below 1.2 US dollars after losses on Monday evening. It was trading at around 1.1995 dollars, up 0.28%.

The pound was also 0.2% higher against the euro at 1.1588 at close.

In company news, HSBC announced it has agreed to sell its business in Canada to the Royal Bank of Canada for 13.5 billion Canadian dollars (£8.4 billion).

The sell-off comes amid pressure from one of HSBC’s stakeholders, Chinese insurance group Ping An, to break off its Asian business.

The move sent HSBC’s share price up by 4.4%.

Budget airline easyJet has significantly narrowed its losses from the £1.1 billion reported last year, to £178 million in pre-tax losses in the latest financial year.

The company told shareholders that it “does well in tough times”, whereas legacy carriers will struggle in the high-cost environment.

Shares in easyJet were down by 2.6%.

William Hill owner 888 has said it is ramping up its cost-saving plans with a new target of £87 million in operating costs in 2023 alone.

It said it has greater scope to improve efficiencies as a newly combined business, but did not say whether it aims to save costs by cutting jobs or closing betting shops in the UK.

Shares in 888 edged up by 0.29%.

The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 were Standard Chartered, up 29.2p to 609p, HSBC Holdings, up 21.7p to 510.3p, Prudential, up 36.4p to 964.8p, Rio Tinto, up 200p to 5,563p, and Anglo American, up 116p to 3,289.5p.

The biggest fallers of the day were Halma, down 143p to 2,128p, Sage Group, down 30p to 786p, Croda International, down 192p to 6,712p, Ocado Group, down 16.8p to 617p, and Experian, down 77p to 2,869p.