A nearly-delivered Brexit deal put a spring in the step of previously worried traders, sending London’s top index to its highest point since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic yesterday.
In its first session since trading paused for Christmas last Thursday, the FTSE 100 closed up 100.54 points to 6,602.65, a rise of 1.6%.
It was below its daily peak of 6,676.6, which pushed the index to its highest point in around nine months.
Investors were reacting to the post-Brexit trade deal, which was struck between London and Brussels on Christmas Eve.
After four years of uncertainty, the deal made it a lot more clear what the UK’s relationship with its closest neighbours is likely to look like in the years ahead.
It also removed the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, which had put downward pressure on markets.
It was the first time markets had been open in the UK since the deal was announced, and traders flocked to an eclectic mix of companies, including safety equipment maker Halma, investor Pershing Square and spirits maker Diageo.
The pound has been trading all along since Thursday’s deal, but still gained ground yesterday, by 0.4% against the dollar to 1.3509, and by 0.1% against the euro, at 1.103.
The Hut Group stood for one of the day’s biggest stories as it bought Dermstore for £259 million.
Alongside the US skincare retailer, Hut Group also paid nearly £60m for UK-based Claremont Ingredients and David Berryman.
Shares closed up 9%.
Meanwhile, Ryanair and Wizz Air said they will push ahead with plans to disenfranchise UK shareholders to ensure they can keep their EU licenses.
It means that British citizens who hold shares in either company will not be able to vote, or attend shareholder meetings.
Ryanair’s shares rose 2.8%, while Wizz Air went the other direction, down 0.5%.
Commenting following the morning’s brisk opening, Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the markets seemed to be “welcoming the Brexit deal”.
“However, the agreement struck between London and Brussels is yet to win universal acclaim, even if that is the inevitable result of the compromises that the prime minister had to make to get the deal over the line before the end of the transition period and confirmation of the UK’s departure from the economic bloc,” he added.
“A double-dip recession, thanks to new viral strains and perhaps more stringent lockdowns, could put equity investors on the back foot.
“Even if the FTSE 100 is down by a sixth from its August 2018 and January 2020 highs, the index is up by 30% from its March 2020 nadir of 4,994, so some degree of recovery is already expected.
“A successful vaccination programme could unleash animal spirits in the form of corporate investment and increased private consumption, leading to a rapid economic bounce back, especially now some of the Brexit uncertainty is lifting.”
In the US, the Dow Jones was flat, while the S&P 500 had risen by 0.2% a little after markets closed in Europe. Brent crude rose 0.7% to $51.23 per barrel.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Halma, up 116p to 2514p, Diageo, up 131p to 3045p, Next, up 306p to 7234p, Pershing Square, up 105p to 2535p, and Smith & Nephew, up 65p to 1590.5p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Lloyds Group, down 1.85p to 36.755p, Barclays, down 5.32p to 149.28p, Natwest Group, down 5.6p to 163.35p, Rolls-Royce, down 2.9p to 112.85p, and Whitbread, down 65p to 3149p.