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NEWS

UK equities end volatile session higher as investors ponder rate outlook

By Sruthi Shankar, Khushi Singh and Pranav Kashyap

(Reuters) -UK equities closed Wednesday’s volatile session higher as investors pondered the outlook for global rates after hotter-than-expected U.S. inflation data tempered expectations the Federal Reserve would cut rates several times this year.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 rose 0.3%, recovering from losses of as much as 0.2% earlier the session, helped by a 3.3% rise in Tesco and banking stocks.

European markets recovered even as Wall Street indexes slid 1% after data showed U.S. consumer prices increased more than expected in March, pushing investors to bet the Fed would delay cutting rates until September.

“The reaction across markets has not been universal,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at online trading platform IG. “Faced with such an uncertain outlook for the US, where valuations are much higher, investors continue to find the unloved UK market a compelling destination.”

Tesco’s stock rose by as much as 6.5% earlier to touch its highest in nearly 10 years after Britain’s biggest retailer forecast a further rise in profit, citing early signs of improving consumer sentiment.

The update lifted shares of other consumer companies including Reckitt Benckiser, Tate & Lyle and Sainsbury’s.

Meanwhile, British banks and insurers rose more than 1% each, supported by higher UK government bond yields as traders bet on interest rates staying higher for longer.

Money markets expect 56 basis points of interest rate cuts by the Bank of England this year and they see a 52% chance of the first cut arriving in June, according to LSEG data. That is more than the 44 bps of U.S. rate cuts priced in by investors, with the first cut from the Fed expected in July.

Britain’s cost of living crisis shows signs of easing, an FCA survey showed.

Investors will closely monitor the European Central Bank’s monetary policy decision on Thursday, and Britain’s GDP figures on Friday.

The domestically oriented FTSE 250 gained 0.2%.

IQE surged 28.8% after the chip components maker forecast fiscal 2024 results to come within market expectations, supported by an improving order book.

(Reporting by Pranav Kashyap and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips, Varun H K and Barbara Lewis)

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