November 5, 2018 / 11:07 AM / 11 days ago

Evraz, Micro Focus lead FTSE higher in choppy trade

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s top share index rose slightly in choppy trade on Monday as leading software group MicroFocus (MCRO.L) surprised with a robust revenue outlook and Evraz (EVRE.L) was boosted by gains in steel prices in China.

People walk through the lobby of the London Stock Exchange in London, Britain August 25, 2015. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/File photo

The FTSE 100 .FTSE closed up 0.1 percent, extending last week's gains as the market continued a cautious recovery from October's brutal sell-off, shrugging off weaker performances by Asian markets earlier.

Defensive stocks from Diageo (DGE.L) to Astrazeneca (AZN.L) contributed the biggest gains, with financials on the backfoot.

The FTSE 100 hit its session high after the pound was briefly knocked by data showing business activity in Britain’s dominant services sector slowed to a seven-month low last month.

A weak pound benefits exporters from the UK, although the weak services PMI reading also highlights a likely slowdown for fourth-quarter GDP, which is expected to come in around 0.2 percent, said Josh Mahony, market analyst at IG.

Investors were also watching for news that Britain has reached a deal with the European Union on its post-Brexit financial services trade, but sentiment was cautious ahead of U.S. Midterm elections on Tuesday.

Russian steelmaker Evraz was the biggest FTSE 100 gainer, up 4 percent, after rebar steel prices in China, the world’s top consumer and producer, recovered from three-week lows on hopes Beijing’s efforts to shore up the world’s second-largest economy will boost demand. [IROONRE/]

Micro Focus, up 2 percent, was also among the biggest blue chip gainers after forecasting full-year revenue will be better than initially expected and the company announced plans to renew its share buyback programme.

The stock has lost more than half of its value this year after a series of weak trading updates.

Industrial equipment rental firm Ashtead (AHT.L) dropped 4.4 percent as Barclays cut its price target, following a similar move by HSBC last week.

Midcap index FTSE 250 .FTMC fell 1.4 percent, with Hiscox (HSX.L) punished for its cautious outlook.

Hiscox, underwriter for Lloyd’s of London, warned that its growth would be moderate in the final quarter of the year. Its shares fell as much as 7.9 percent to a three-month low before paring some losses to end down 5.7 percent.

Reporting by Josephine Mason; Editing by Gareth Jones and Susan Fenton

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