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FTSE closes lower as sterling strengthens

UK stocks closed lower on Thursday as two pieces of positive news for sterling compounded losses on the FTSE 100.

The success of an amendment in the House of Commons to stop the next Prime Minister proroguing Parliament to force through a no deal Brexit, and higher than expected retail sales, helped push the pound up 0.4% against both the dollar and the euro.

The UK's benchmark index closed 0.5% lower at 7,497.71.

LARGE AND MID CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

Pubs operator Ei Group soared 38.5% to 285p after it agreed an all cash offer of 285p from Stonegate Pubs, a private operator of 772 pubs and bars. The acquisition values the company at £1.27bn, and including debts equates to an enterprise value of £2.97bn.

Royal Mail slipped 1.8% to 216p as it said its performance in the first quarter of the 2019-2020 financial year had been "in line with expectations" and reiterated its full-year outlook ahead of its AGM.

Budget airline easyJet added 3% to £10.66 after it said it expected to deliver pre-tax profit in line with market expectations following a 'robust' third quarter despite rising competition and tougher macroeconomic conditions weighing on revenues.

Online fashion retailer Asos plummeted 20.8% to £21.72after it warned on profits as difficulties with new warehouse facilities in the US and Europe were expected to continue for the remainder of the year.

Moneysupermarket.com tumbled 7.7% to 371p even as it reported a 15% increase in first-half Group revenue as its Reinvent strategy accelerated core growth and unlocked new market growth and as it said it was "confident" it would meet market expectations this year.

Anglo American edged 0.7% lower to £21.87after it said it remained "broadly" on track to meet its full-year production target despite lowering its diamond production guidance and reporting a fall in iron ore production at its Kumba mine.

Mining company South32 slipped 1.65% to 167p even as it reported a "strong finish" to its 2019 financial year, with revenue equivalent production growing 10% in the last quarter ending in June and 3% for the year.

Brewery Young & Co added 0.5% to £16.20 after it said it had appointed Simon Dodd, a former director at Fuller's Brewery, as a director in the newly created role of Chief Operating Officer.

British investment trust Sequoia Economic Infrastructure Income Fund edged 0.4% higher to 115p after it announced it would pay an interim dividend of 1.5625p per share for the quarter ended 30 June 2019.

Gold miner Centamin added 1% to 116p after it maintained its annual production guidance as gold output jumped 27% in the second quarter from a year earlier.

Gambling group GVC added 1.7% to 613p after it said it had reached an agreement to sell its 50% stake in Sportium Apuestas Deportivas to joint venture partner Cirsa S.A. for €70m.

Hilton Food Group gained 1.6% to 956p after it said performance in the first half met management's expectations as the food packing company continued to grow the business through additional volumes and close cooperation with its retail partners.

Hochschild Mining added 1.6% to 206p after it said it remained on track to meet its annual production and cost targets following its second strongest half of production on record.

SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS

7digital Group leapt 51.4% to 0.27p after it announced that Chief Executive Officer John Aalbers and Chief Financial Officer Julia Hubbard had stepped down with immediate effect.

Life sciences business OptiBiotix Health fell 3.5% to 73p after it said it had signed an agreement with UK sales and marketing company BioEnergiser for the online distribution of its appetite suppressant SlimBiome Medical in the UK.

Live data company Wandisco shed 1.8% to 534p after it announced a partnership with business and technology consulting firm Neudesic to speed up the migration of customers' data and analytics workloads to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.