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UPDATE 2-FTSE 100 posts third consecutive week of gains on vaccine hopes, Brexit optimism
Published at 20/11/2020 at 17:14

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window)

* Retail sales stronger than expected in October

* UK economy to double-dip after second lockdown -poll

* EU says Brexit deal still 'metres from the finish line'

* Sage Group drops on weak annual results

* FTSE 100 up 0.3%, FTSE 250 flat

(Adds comment; updates to close)

By Devik Jain

Nov 20 (Reuters) - London's FTSE 100 inched higher on Friday, logging its third straight week of gains, on the prospect of easing coronavirus restrictions, optimism around a vaccine and hopes of a Brexit trade deal with the European Union.

After rising as much as 0.8% in afternoon trade, the blue-chip index closed 0.3% higher, boosted by aero

and pharmaceutical stocks, with energy

and mining shares also tracking commodity prices higher.

The domestically focused mid-cap FTSE 250 ended flat, after rising 0.5% during the day.

Data showed British retail sales rose a higher-than-anticipated 1.2% in October ahead of the recent restrictions, while consumer confidence sank to a six-month low in November.

A Reuters poll found Britain is on course for a double-dip recession as a result of the renewed lockdown measures.

"We are having catch-up of exuberance around a possible vaccine and an end to the COVID-19 uncertainty," said Edward Park, chief investment officer at Brooks Macdonald.

"Market is taking all data with a pinch of salt because there's so much uncertainty about how the level of restrictions will need to be over the coming few weeks."

Meanwhile, UK Health Secretary said Britain may allow a Christmas period with less stringent restrictions as domestic coronavirus cases were starting to flatten.

The FTSE 100 rose only 0.5% for the week, following a jump of about 13% in the past two weeks, as uncertainty over Brexit negotiations also capped gains.

The EU's chief executive said on Friday better progress towards a trade deal with Britain had been made the last few days, but there was still a lot of work to do for an agreement to be in place by the end-year deadline.

Among other stock movers, Sage Group Plc tumbled 13.4% after the software firm reported a 3.7% drop in full-year organic operating profit.

British Land fell 1.1% after Barclays cut its target price on the stock.

(Reporting by Devik Jain in Bengaluru, Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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