UK's FTSE 100 rises as traders ramp up rate cut bets

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

By Shubham Batra, Pranav Kashyap and Khushi Singh

(Reuters) -UK's FTSE 100 rose on Friday after dovish comments from Bank of England Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden on inflation boosted bets on monetary policy easing by the UK central bank in 2024, while Middle East tensions continued to sour sentiment.

Both of Britain's main equity gauges remained in the red for most of the session, but the benchmark FTSE 100 rebounded 0.2% in the last hour of trading. The midcap FTSE 250FTMC> was down 0.3%.

Still, British stocks had their worst week in three months.

UK's 2-year gilt yields dropped to the lowest since April 15 at 4.398% after BoE's Ramsden said on Friday that inflation could hold around the central bank's 2% target for the next three years rather than rise higher later this year as set out in the BoE's most recent forecasts.

Traders now expect the central bank to cut interest rates by 53 basis points, starting in September.

British paper and packaging group Mondi was the top gainer on FTSE 100, surging 9.3%, as it denied making an offer to buy DS Smith after its UK peer agreed to a 5.8 billion pound deal with International Paper.

Shares of DS Smith dropped 10.3% to the bottom of the benchmark index.

The pound wavered against the U.S. dollar and last traded at 1.2405 following reports of Israel's attack on Iran.

Meanwhile, data showed UK retail sales stagnated in March, the first time sales have not grown in monthly terms since December.

Utilities led gains among sectors, rising 1.0%, while construction stocks were the top losers that fell 1.4%.

Man Group emerged as the biggest drag on the midcap index, falling 6.6% after the British hedge fund reported higher-than-expected client outflows.

Bookmaker 888 gained 4.8% after reporting first-quarter revenue slightly ahead of its expectations.

(Reporting by Pranav Kashyap and Shubham Batra in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza, Varun H K and Richard Chang)