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FTSE buoyed by vote for Brexit delay as oil majors rally

FTSE buoyed by vote for Brexit delay as oil majors rally

The FTSE 100 rose as investors welcomed MPs' vote in favour of a delay to Brexit on 29 March, while gains by oil majors also boosted the UK’s main market.

The UK blue-chip index was up 36 points, or 0.5%, to 7,222 after MPs approved a motion requesting that the prime minister ask EU leaders for a one-off extension to Brexit, by 210 votes.

The pound strengthened to $1.326 against the dollar on the news.

Prime minister Theresa May is due to put forward a third version of her Brexit deal for an MP vote on 20 March, which if approved, would then result in requiring only a small extension. If not a longer delay will be requested.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: ‘Another failure of the deal would mean that control of the next steps of the Brexit process would then pass into the hands of EU leaders, all 27 of them at next week’s European Council meeting. They would then have to weigh up the risks of a lengthy extension, when balanced against the risks of a no deal Brexit.

‘This still remains the default option in law, and as such still needs a majority of MPs to pass legislation to push out the Article 50 date. If the EU are too punitive in their demands for an extension public opinion may well take a dim view if MPs simply roll over, despite this week’s rejection of a “no-deal” Brexit.’

Oil majors Shell (RDSb) and BP (BP) were up 0.9% to £24.11 and 0.3% to 551.3p respectively, as crude oil futures rose to $67.28 a barrel, boosted by Opec supply cuts and US sanctions.

The FTSE 250 rose 122 points, or 0.6%, to 19,404, with Frankie & Benny’s owner Restaurant Group (RTN) climbing 9.7% to 138.9p after it said like-for-like sales were up 2.8% in the first quarter.

‘The future now lies heavily on the success of Wagamama, particularly as Restaurant Group needs to justify the high price paid for the business,’ said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould. ‘Recent trading has been good and there are numerous initiatives underway to drive sales including a ‘grab and go’ takeaway proposition.’

‘The main job is to accelerate growth across the group and to clean up the estate.’

Nearly a third of Frankie and Benny’s sites situated in ‘structurally unattractive locations’ are set to be closed down, while 41% of the Restaurant Group’s leisure portfolio has a lease end or break within the next five years, which Mould believed would give it ‘the flexibility to action significant change’.

Interserve (IRV) shares jumped 13.4% to 10.9p ahead of a shareholder meeting to decide whether the indebted construction company will accept a rescue deal or go into administration. 

Jupiter European Opportunities (JEO), the £821 million FTSE 250-listed trust run by star manager Alexander Darwall, dipped 1.8% to 715p as shares in 16.1% in holding Wirecard (WDI.DE) slumped after the latest critical report in the Financial Times.

According to a report in the Financial Times, the German payments processor had ‘lost contact’ with a senior executive, Edo Kurniawan, who is central to suspected fraud scandal, just 10 days after the paper published a report which prompted an investigation by Singapore authorities.

JD Wetherspoon (JDW) shares were up 1% at £13.05, despite the pub chain reporting a 19% dive in profits in the six months to the end of January. Chairman Tim Martin, an outspoken Brexit supporter, used the results as an opportunity to share concerns of ‘adverse economic consequences’ should the article 50 process be reversed. 

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Alexander Darwall
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