Miners drive FTSE 100's best week in almost two years

A man walks through the lobby of the London Stock Exchange in London

By Johann M Cherian and Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) -Britain's blue-chip shares marked their best week in almost two years on Friday, with miners and Asia-exposed stocks getting a lift from hopes that China would relax its COVID-19 restrictions.

The internationally oriented FTSE 100 index rallied 2.0% on the day to touch its highest level in seven weeks. Its weekly rise of 4.1% was the best since January 2021.

UK's industrial metal & mining index surged 6.1% to record its best day in over two years as copper and other metal prices rallied on news that top metals consumer China will relax its strict COVID measures.

"Despite the pound's attempts at fighting back from Thursday's slump, investors looking at London-listed stocks clearly seem to prefer companies which earn in overseas currencies," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

HSBC jumped 5.8% along with gains in other Asian-exposed companies even as its largest shareholder, Ping An, urged the lender to aggressively reduce costs by cutting jobs and divesting peripheral non-Asian businesses.

Insurer Prudential, bank Standard Chartered and luxury goods maker Burberry rose between 4.0% and 9.0%.

Investors also took heart from the Bank of England signalling this week that peak interest rates would be less than what markets had originally priced in.

"It's now a feeling that the Bank of England would wait and see how rate hikes have affected economic growth and slowed down inflation to avoid over-tightening," said Daniela Hathorn, market analyst at Capital.com.

The mid-cap FTSE 250 closed the session up 1.3% and notched up its third straight week of gains.

Synthomer Plc rose 8.9% after Malaysian plantation giant Kuala Lumpur Kepong said it is looking to boost its 26.3% stake in the British chemicals company.

National World Plc slipped 2.4% after it said it was exploring a cash offer for Daily Mirror-owner Reach Plc. Reach rose 1.9%.

(Reporting by Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Uttaresh V, Shailesh Kuber and Elaine Hardcastle)