- The FTSE 100 gained momentum on the back of weaker sterling and rising utility companies, helping the blue-chip index close 0.7% higher at 7,183.

On Wall Street, investor sentiment was cautious as the market fretted about whether the US and China will seal a deal to end the trade war anytime soon.

The S&P 500 was broadly unmoved at 2,792 at around 4:45pm UK time.

Brent crude oil was stable at $65.64 per barrel and copper climbed 0.9% to $2.94 per pound.

In corporate news, beleaguered retailer Debenhams shed 2.8% as it again warned on profits, blaming economic uncertainties and higher financing costs.

Comparison site GoCompare gained 6% to 68.4p after chairman and insurance industry guru Peter Wood lifted his stake in the business from 25.6% to 29.9% and described the shares as too cheap.


Gambling firm GVC rallied 7.1% to 697p after revealing annual earnings were expected to hit the top end of its guidance and a strong start to 2019.

General insurer Direct Line dipped 0.6% to 353.9p after it cut its annual dividend and declared a more modest special payout, as bad weather including the Beast from the East dented its annual profits and the company prepared for Brexit.

Equipment rental company Ashtead also headed south, weakening 1.4% to £20.37, even as it posted an 18% rise in underlying profits for its fiscal third quarter.

Brickmaker Ibstock firmed 3.4% to 260p as its annual profits rose by about a fifth.

Chemicals firm Elementis slipped 7.8% to 163.2p after statutory profit plummeted 65% to $41m in the year ending 31 December 2018.

A negative broker note from Merrill Lynch on Spire Healthcare caused the shares to dip 0.7% to 131.9p.

Aviation services company BBA Aviation descended 7.6% after it managed to only eke out a modest gain in profits, despite boosting revenue by a fifth.

NMC Health gained 2.8% to £29.37 on announcing that it had agreed to form a healthcare joint venture with a large Saudi pension fund.


Wincanton accelerated 1.7% to 236p after winning a new five-year contract with Aggregate Industries.

Power control component supplier XP Power gained 3.8% to £20.40 as it posted a 17% rise in annual profit, but warned that its revenue growth in 2019 would be weighted to the second half of the year.

Personal care and beauty products supplier Swallowfield dropped 12.8% to 170p after it posted a 74% fall in annual profit owing to higher raw material costs.

Shares in Rockrose Energy were suspended as it made a £26.6m bid for Independent Oil & Gas. The latter rose 34.5% to 19p as it rebuffed the interest.

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