UK shares end higher as hopes of recovery offset grim unemployment data

UK shares end higher as hopes of recovery offset grim unemployment data

UK stocks closed higher on Tuesday, bucking the trend in Europe as optimism around an economic recovery led by plans to ease restrictions in Britain offset a spike in the domestic unemployment rate.

After falling as much as 1.7%, the commodity-heavy FTSE 100 ended 0.2% higher after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was very optimistic that all COVID-19 restrictions in England would end on June 21.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 gained 0.4%.

“The announcement has given the market additional confidence that the economy will gradually return to normal in the coming months and shares of travel companies and banks are benefiting,” said Chris Bailey, strategist at Raymond James.

IAG, owner of British Airways, gained 2.0%, while easyJet, Wizz Air and Cineworld gained between 1.8% and 9.5%.

Bookings for summer vacations rose as much as 600% after Britain announced plans to gradually ease restrictions on coronavirus.

HSBC Holdings Plc rose 0.8%, along with other bank stocks, despite a cut in its long-term profitability target.

Barclays and Lloyds Banking Group rose 3.1% and 2%, respectively.

A series of global stimulus measures helped the FTSE 100 recover about 35% from a coronavirus-induced crash last year, but it has lagged behind its European peers due to concerns about the economic damage of prolonged lockdowns. More recently, fears of rising inflation have hit stocks worldwide.

Britain’s unemployment rate rose to 5.1% in the last three months of 2020, the highest rate in nearly five years, but still lower than it would have been without a huge coronavirus-induced jobs support scheme, which Finance Minister Rishi Sunak looks set to extend next week.

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