The FTSE 100 bounced to a new high since the pandemic hit the UK amid renewed optimism ahead of the next phase of the Government’s reopening road map next week.
This positivity also drove the FTSE 250 to another all-time peak, despite questions over the vaccine rollout and the need for vaccine passports.
London’s top flight closed 56.9 points, or 0.83%, higher at 6,942.22 on Thursday – its highest level since February 2020.
Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “While other major indices have led the way in posting record highs in recent weeks, UK stocks appear to be finally finding favour with investors as an economic reopening beckons, even though the FTSE 100 still has a lot of ground to make up, before it has reversed its losses from last year’s peaks of 7,689.
“The main laggards today have been travel and leisure stocks, somewhat surprisingly given all of the optimism surrounding the lifting of lockdown restrictions, with easyJet, Wizz Air and Carnival slipping from their recent peaks.
“One reason behind today’s weakness in this sector could be concerns about possible delays in the UK being able to complete its vaccination programme on schedule, and a delay to the May 17 overseas travel deadline, given the change of advice with respect to vaccinating the under-30s cohort.”
Elsewhere in Europe, sentiment was more restrained with German trading subdued after the Dax lifted to a record high earlier this week.
The German Dax increased by 0.17% and the French Cac moved 0.57% higher.
Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones also drifted slightly from its own recent record peak, bobbing around 30 points lower from the start of trading.
Meanwhile, sterling continued its timid start to the week as UK vaccine concerns, related to a slow down in rollout and issues related to the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, focused on the currency.
The pound increased by 0.02% versus the US dollar to 1.374 and was down 0.27% against the euro at 1.154.
In company news, Asos dipped lower at the close of play despite unveiling a jump in sales and profits for the past half-year.
It told investors that revenues lifted 24% to £1.98 billion in the six months to the end of February, with pre-tax profits up 253% to £106.4 million.
Shares finished the day down 198p at 5,590p.
Anglo American climbed higher after the London-listed miner announced the demerger of its South African thermal coal operations to become a new stand-alone business. Shares moved 96p higher to 3,084p.
Car dealership group Motorpoint finished the day flat at 259p despite predicting pent-up demand when its sites open next week and reported a surge in online sales.
The price of oil slipped after Wednesday’s weekly inventory data showed a surprise rise in US gasoline stockpiles.
The price of Brent crude oil decreased by 0.43% to 62.89 dollars per barrel.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Experian, up 111p at 2,647p, Sage Group, up 25.8p at 655p, Aveva, up 145p at 3,775p, and 3i Group, up 42p at 1,253p.
The biggest fallers of the day were Aviva, down 13p at 407.4p, Smurfit Kappa, down 88p at 3,499p, DS Smith, down 10.1p at 414.3p, and BP, down 7p at 298.45p.