UK equities remained in favour thanks to better than anticipated economic data with retailers and utilities enjoying uplift in value. The FTSE 100 closed 0.6% higher at 7,665. The UK economy grew 0.5% in the last three months of 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics. This beat economists' expectations of 0.4% growth. Fashion retailer Next (NXT) dominated the top blue-chip risers, up 3% at £52.18 and Just Eat (JE.) accelerated 2.2% to 819.4p. A broker upgrade for National Grid (NG.) sparked a share price jump of 1.4% to 807p. This had a positive read across for SSE (SSE) and United Utilities (UU.). Brent crude oil was flat at $70.44 per barrel. Copper fell 0.7% to $3.18 per pound and gold was 0.7% lower at $1,352 per ounce. OVERSEAS MARKETS The US economy grew slower than expected in the last quarter of 2017, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Growth was 2.6%, down from an anticipated 3%. That failed to dent investor sentiment the S&P 500 advanced 0.5% to 2,853 around 4:45 UK time. MID AND LARGE CAP RISERS AND FALLERS A takeover attempt of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) by City Developments fell through, causing the shares to fall 4.7% to 546p. After the markets closed on Thursday, GVC (GVC) announced one of its subsidiaries faced a bill of €186.77m from Greek authorities for 2010 and 2011, which it plans to appeal. The subsidiary was owned by Sportingbet over this period. The shares still under pressure today as investors digested the news, falling 2.8% to 921.5p. Drugs colossus AstraZeneca (AZN) got a 1.9% shot in the arm to £50.95 after a Phase III trial revealed its chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treatment improved its patients' conditions. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) also received good news after the European Medicines Agency recommended marketing authorisation for shingles treatment Shingrix. The stock rose 1.5% to £13.55. Instrumentation provider Spectris (SXS) completed the acquisition of drug developer Concept Life Sciences for £163m to add test service capabilities to its materials analysis segment. Shares in Spectris rose 0.7% to £25.91. SMALL CAP RISERS AND FALLERS Air filtration group MayAir (MAYA) flew 24% to 119p after receiving a £50m takeover offer from Poly Glorious. Scientific Digital Imaging (SDI) rallied 19.2% to 31p on the back of improving margins and earnings in the year to 31 December 2017. Leisure group EasyHotel (EZH) acquired a property in Milton Keynes where it plans to build a 14-room hotel for £8.7m. The stock was up 3.7% at 112p on the news.
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