London stocks, pound climb as Britons vote

Traders were following the UK general election that was expected to sweep in the Labour party (Paul ELLIS)
Traders were following the UK general election that was expected to sweep in the Labour party (Paul ELLIS)

London's stock market and the pound advanced versus the dollar Thursday as Britons voted in a general election expected to be won by the centre-left and main opposition Labour party.

Eurozone stocks also pushed higher amid political manoeuvring to try and block the far-right National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen from gaining power in France's legislative poll on Sunday.

Gains were capped with Wall Street shut for the July 4 Independence Day holiday in the United States.

In Britain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's right-wing Conservatives are forecast to suffer a heavy defeat, which would end 14 years of Tory rule.

"Today's UK election looks unlikely to cause too many shockwaves given just how resounding the Labour party victory is expected to be, with markets feeling optimistic over the potential change at Downing Street," said Scope Markets analyst Joshua Mahony.

"Coming off the back of a volatile 14-year stint for the Conservatives party that saw five prime ministers within the past nine-years alone, we are seeing the pound strengthen in anticipation of a shift to a stable Labour majority."

In UK company news, shares in British medical equipment maker Smith & Nephew rallied more than seven percent after Swedish activist investor Cevian snapped up a five-percent stake.

Barclays rose 2.8 percent after the lender agreed to sell its German consumer finance business for an undisclosed amount to Austrian peer BAWAG.

However, elections remained squarely in focus across Europe with France also on the radar.

The euro was handed a boost from news that more than 200 centrist and left-wing candidates had pulled out of this weekend's runoff.

President Emmanuel Macron hopes the moves will avoid splintering the anti-RN vote after the far-right party saw massive gains in the first round.

However, analysts also warn that France -- the second-biggest economy in the European Union -- could be headed for a period of political deadlock if there is no overall winner in the polls.

Investor sentiment was also lifted Thursday as softer US labour market data gave the Federal Reserve room to cut interest rates, and with another key jobs report due Friday.

- Key figures around 1530 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.9 percent at 8,241.26 points (close)

Paris - CAC 40: UP 0.8 percent at 7,695.78 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.4 percent at 18,450.48 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.4 percent at 4,987.48 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0. percent at 40,913.65 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.3 percent at 18,028.28 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.8 percent at 2,957.57 (close)

New York - Dow: Closed for public holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0813 from $1.0786 on Wednesday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2765 from $1.2737

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 161.16 yen from 161.52 yen

Euro/pound: UP at 84.69 pence from 84.65 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP less than 0.1 percent at $83.94 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.2 percent at $87.51 per barrel