The FTSE 100 surged past landmark levels set in 2007 and 2000, as comments from the US Federal Reserve suggested the world’s biggest economy may yet see more quantitative easing (QE).
The London market was also given a boost by strong US retail sales figures pointing to more signs of optimism in the country’s vast consumer sector.
Alex Young, senior sales trader at CMC Markets, said investors are showing an “impressive appetite for risk assets”, despite the FTSE’s meteoric rise.
But the pound fell to a seven-week low against the dollar and struggled against the euro after weaker-than-expected UK inflation raised the prospect of more quantitative easing by the Bank of England.
Lower prices at the petrol pumps pushed inflation down to 2.4% in April from 2.8% in March, which economists said gives the Bank more scope to expand QE. The pound was worth 1.52 dollars and 1.17 euros.
Retailer Marks & Spencer was among the risers, gaining about 6%, even though annual profits fell to their lowest level in four years due to a slump in clothing sales. Underlying pre-tax profits for 2012/13 were £665.2 million, a fall of 6% on a year earlier but in line with market expectations.
Analysts were also comfortable with forecasts after chief executive Marc Bolland reported a steady start to the new period. Shares were 27.4p higher at 467.9p.
Outsourcing giant Capita made strong gains after striking a 10-year deal with mobile phone group O2, worth about £1.2 billion over its lifetime. The deal builds on an existing long-term tie-up with O2 and will see Capita run and manage its call centres. The revenue upgrade sent Capita’s shares surging 6% or 56p to 1005p.
Home emergency business Homeserve was the biggest winner on the FTSE 250, despite setting aside £6 million to cover a potential mis-selling fine from regulators.
Shares gained 10% or 23.2p to 250.2p on investor relief that the boiler repair firm does not expect a bigger penalty from the Financial Conduct Authority for a mis-selling scandal. The Walsall-based company also cheered investors with strong international expansion and heavy cost cuts in the UK, including about 700 job losses.
P&O cruise company Carnival was the biggest faller on the FTSE 100, slumping 6% or 143p to 2267p, following a profits warning. The US-based firm slashed its full-year guidance due to weaker-than-expected revenues yields and higher costs.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Polymetal International 52p ahead to 669p, Marks & Spencer up 27.4p at 467.9p, Capita 56p ahead to 1005p and Burberry gaining 78p to 1541p. The biggest fallers were Carnival, off 143p to 2267p, Arm Holdings down 31p to 1065p, Royal Bank of Scotland down 9.7p to 342.2p and British Land down 15p to 643p.