FTSE propped up by ABF and AstraZeneca

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

LONDON (Reuters) – A rise in the share prices of Associated British Foods and drugmaker AstraZeneca buoyed Britain’s top equity index on Wednesday, leaving the market near a two-week high.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 index edged up by 0.1 percent, or 3.61 points, to 6,685.37 points in early session trading.

Clothing and foods conglomerate Associated British Foods (ABF) surged 7.6 percent after posting higher interim profits, while ongoing bid speculation lifted AstraZeneca by 1.7 percent, and together ABF and AstraZeneca added the most points to the FTSE 100.

“Associated British Foods have come out with a strong set of numbers, while with AstraZeneca, the bid speculation is the key headline that’s still in the background,” said Dafydd Davies, senior trader at London-based Prime Wealth Group.

AstraZeneca’s rise built on a 4.7 percent gain on Tuesday, after The Sunday Times had reported a possible $ 100 billion (59.49 billion pounds) deal between U.S. peer Pfizer and AstraZeneca.

Both companies declined to comment on the report, with AstraZeneca due to post first quarter figures on Thursday, but the prospect of consolidation within the pharmaceuticals sector also lifted Shire and GlaxoSmithKline for a second consecutive day.

The FTSE 100 hit a peak of 6,867 points in late January, its highest level since early 2000, but has since slipped back due to concerns over a slump in emerging markets economies and tensions between Russia and Western powers over Ukraine.

Hantec Markets analyst Richard Perry said that if the FTSE did not break above the 6,706 point level – which marked a high point from earlier in April – it could make limited progress in the near-term.

“If it does not get above 6,706 points, it could send out a bit of a sell signal,” he said.

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

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