Pharma stocks rebound from Trump kicking

Shares in pharmaceutical giants Shire (SHP) and AstraZeneca (AZN) started to fight back after the drugs sector was hit earlier this week by negative comments from US President-elect Donald Trump.

His press conference on Wednesday included the reference that pharmaceutical stocks were 'getting away with murder', in relation to drug pricing and tax avoidance.

An approximate 1% gain in the stocks helped the FTSE 100 continue its stellar run as it advanced 0.3% to 7,312.

The blue chip index has experienced gains for 13 days in a row and reached a record close for 11 consecutive days as of Thursday's close.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil was 1% higher at $52.46 and $55.46 per barrel, respectively.

Gold declined 0.3% to $1,195 per ounce and copper was flat at $5,864 per tonne.

In the US, the S&P 500 closed 0.2% lower last night at 2,270. Global pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly was among the top risers.

The Dow Jones index was also in negative territory as Walt Disney and, Wal-Mart and Microsoft suffered falls of at least 0.9%. Big Mac seller McDonald's and pharmaceutical firm Merck rose 1%.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was up 0.5% at 22,937, while in Shanghai the SSE Composite nudged 0.2% lower to 3,112.

FTSE 250 RISERS AND FALLERS

Back in the UK, Harvester owner Mitchells & Butlers (MAB) surprised investors with 4.7% like-for-like sales growth over the Christmas period.

It was struggling for years but solid trading in the four week period to 7 January could prompt the market to reassess negative views of the stock.

Investors breathed a sigh of relief on a lack of further bad news from insulation products supplier SIG (SHI) following its profit warning in November 2016. SIG said its pre-tax profit would still be in the previously downgraded range of £75m to £80m for 2016.

Builders' merchant Grafton (GFTU) reported signs of improvement in its fourth quarter with 5.3% rise in life-for-like sales. This was a significant pick-up in pace from 2.8% growth between July and October 2016.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Brickmaker Forterra (FORT) experienced a good end to its financial year with volumes up year-on-year in both November and December. Net debt of £93m compared to analyst estimates in the range of £108m.

Iodine producer Iofina (IOF) reported that normal production levels had resumed following acceleration in its partners' fracking operations. The stock jumped 8.8% on predictions it would produce more crystalline iodine in the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2016.

UK estate agent Countrywide (CWD) said its underlying level of market transactions continued to run below the 2015 rate between October and December 2016. It said it expects full year market volumes for 2016 to be 6% lower compared to the prior year.

Computer power pack maker XP Power (XPP) enjoyed a good finish to its financial year with underlying revenue growth in the fourth quarter ahead of analyst forecasts.

Shares in Lavendon (LVD) said its full year results would beat the board's predictions but made no reference to the current bid war for the company.

Australia-based exploration company 88 Energy (88E) advanced 3.6% to 2.5p after results from its Alaskan asset 'Project Icewine' continued to exceed expectations.