London stocks end year on record high


London – London’s FTSE 100 ended 2017 on a new record high on Friday, on a shortened final day of trading before the New Year break.

The benchmark index of blue-chip shares was boosted once again by strong mining stocks, and closed at 12:30 GMT, up 0.9% at a new closing high of 7 687.77 points, having earlier reached a new intraday record of 7 697.62.

Despite economic headwinds and Brexit-related uncertainties in 2017, the FTSE added 7.6% over the year, with more records set to be broken in 2018, according to analysts.

“The FTSE 100 could launch a concerted attack on the 8 000 mark for the first time in 2018,” said analysts at AJ Bell.

“While issues such as Brexit, an economy that is hardly firing on all cylinders and political risk must not be dismissed, none of these fears are new and the UK market has three things going for it as we enter 2018 – performance, valuation and dividend yield,” they wrote in a note to investors.

Meanwhile in the eurozone, stocks fell back, with Frankfurt’s DAX 30 ending its own shortened session 0.5% lower at 12 917.64.

Dollar under pressure

The CAC 40 in Paris, which for its part continued trading as normal, was 0.1% lower at 5 332.27 points by mid-afternoon.

The dollar remained under pressure as traders cash in on the recent gains fuelled by President Donald Trump’s tax cuts, while most Asian equities were on course to end a strong year on a positive note.

Asia’s biggest markets have enjoyed huge gains over the past year – with Hong Kong up more than a third and Tokyo nearly 20% higher – fuelled by expectations that US President Donald Trump would push through business-friendly measures.

And while he suffered a series of setbacks, Trump managed to finish 2017 with one major legislative achievement – across-the-board tax cuts that include the slashing of corporate rates.

The focus is now on his programme for the next 12 months, with an infrastructure spending bill promised, though there are warnings about his low poll ratings, and mid-term elections in November that could see his Republicans lose the Senate.

Despite the positive news of Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, a stronger economy and improving employment, the dollar has been unable to break away from its peers.

On Friday, the euro was at a one-month high and up more than 13% over the year, while the pound was also in the ascendancy, having added 9% since January.

Most high-yielding currencies including the Australian dollar, South Korean won and Indonesian rupiah were up on Friday.

Tokyo closed 0.1% down, with tech titan SoftBank reversing early gains to end 0.1% off after announcing a deal to take a huge stake in US ride-sharing giant Uber.

Bitcoin edged up almost nine percent above $15 000, having fallen on Thursday on news that South Korea would ban anonymous trading in virtual currencies and crack down on links to money laundering activities.

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