Investing.com - The U.K.’s FTSE 100 edged higher on Thursday, but volumes remained light as several bourses were closed for the May 1 public holiday.
During European afternoon trade, London’s FTSE 100 inched up 0.3%. The U.K. Index is the only major bourse open Thursday with markets in Germany, France and some other countries closed for May Day. All national benchmarks will reopen on Friday.
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.LONDON) rallied 4.9% in London after the lender reported a 22% increase in first quarter underlying profit and announced plans to restart dividend payments.
The upbeat results boosted other shares in the sector, with Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.LONDON) rising 2.9% and Barclays (BARC.LONDON) gaining 1%.
Shares of British Sky Broadcasting Group (BSY.LONDON) gained 3.4% after its third quarter results showed it had added 74,000 new TV customers in the period.
Data released earlier showed that manufacturing activity in the U.K. expanded at the fastest rate in five months in April, bolstering the outlook for the wider recovery.
Sterling rallied following the report, with GBP/USD touching highs of 1.6922, the most since August 2009.
Across the Atlantic, U.S. equity markets pointed to a modestly higher open. The Dow pointed to a rise of 0.05%, S&P 500 inched up 0.08%, while the Nasdaq 100 indicated a rise of 0.25%.
Market players looked ahead to a series of key economic events later in the day for further indications on the strength of the U.S. economy and the future course of monetary policy.
The U.S. is to publish the weekly report on initial jobless claims, while the Institute of Supply Management is to release a report on manufacturing activity.
Investors were also turning their attention to Friday’s U.S. jobs report for April, which was expected to indicate that the recovery in the labor market is continuing.
Data released Wednesday showed that the U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 0.1% in the first three months of the year, well below forecasts for an expansion of 1.2%.
The Federal Reserve said Wednesday it would reduce its bond purchases by $10 billion to a total of $45 billion a month, in a widely expected decision.
The U.S. central bank acknowledged that first quarter growth was far weaker than expected, but added that momentum had started to pick up in recent weeks.