FTSE gains on pharma and finance stocks

Financial and pharmaceutical stocks including Shire (SHP), HSBC (HSBA) and Standard Chartered (STAN), helped the FTSE 100 achieve another record close.

A weaker pound also supported the blue chip index as many of the companies generate earnings overseas.

The FTSE 100 experienced gains for 13 days in a row and reached a record close for 11 consecutive days as of Thursday's close. In the US, the S&P 500 opened up 0.2% at 2,275.

West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude oil fell by at least 0.8% to $52.47 and $55.57 per barrel, respectively.

Gold declined 0.9% to $1,188 per ounce and copper retreated 0.7% to $5,820 per tonne.

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.