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FTSE 100 Modestly Higher In Cautious Trade

U.K. stocks rose slightly on Friday after U.K. retail sales figures surpassed analysts' expectations and health minister Matt Hancock said that coronavirus cases in Britain are starting to flatten as a result of current lockdowns.

A weaker pound also offered some support after the chief Brexit negotiators suspended direct talks at the 11th hour.

The benchmark FTSE 100 rose 23 points, or 0.4 percent, to 6,357 after ending 0.8 percent lower the previous day.

AstraZeneca shares advanced 1.3 percent. The company said Imfinzi (durvalumab) has been approved in the U.S. for an additional dosing option in the approved indications of unresectable Stage III non-small cell lung cancer.

Telit Communications jumped as much as 16 percent after confirming a merger approach by Swiss computing firm u-blox Holding AG.

Software Group Sage slumped 11 percent after posting mixed results.

In economic releases, the U.K. budget deficit reached its highest October level on record, reflecting the effects of government coronavirus policies, the Office for National Statistics reported.

The public sector net borrowing rose by GBP 10.8 billion from the last year to GBP 22.3 billion in October. This was the highest October borrowing and the sixth-highest borrowing in any month since monthly records began in 1993.

Another government report revealed that U.K. retail sales logged a stronger-than-expected growth in October suggesting that consumers started Christmas shopping earlier this year, further helped by early discounting from a range of stores.

Retail sales grew 1.2 percent month-on-month in October, following a 1.4 percent rise logged in September. Economists had forecast a marginal 0.1 percent increase. This was the sixth consecutive rise in sales volume.

Excluding auto fuel, retail sales growth came in at 1.3 percent versus a 1.5 percent gain a month ago. The volume was expected to edge up 0.1 percent in October.

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