London Markets: Banks continue to rise in otherwise downbeat U.K. stock market

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Bank stocks on Thursday stood out in an otherwise listless U.K. stock market, advancing on expectations that interest rates soon will rise in both Britain and the U.S.

Shares of Barclays PLC BARC, +1.94% BCS, +0.79%  posted the biggest gain in London, rising 1.7%. Lloyds Banking Group PLC LLOY, +0.52% LYG, +2.83%  added 0.7%, HSBC Holdings PLC HSBA, +0.26% HSBC, +1.08% 0005, +0.00%  climbed 0.6% and Standard Chartered PLC STAN, +0.36%  gained 0.7%.

The positive moves for the sector came after the Bank of England’s Chief Economist Andy Haldane late Wednesday in a Sky News interview said Brits should not fear higher interest rates, sparking speculation that the first rate hike in a decade is imminent.

The economist also reiterated the message from the BOE’s September meeting that “we could be nearing the point where a reduction in some degree of monetary stimulus might be warranted in the coming months.”

Higher rates tend to boost the banking sector as it means they can charge more for their loans. Across the pond, expectations for a rate hike later this year are also high after Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen earlier this week said it would be “imprudent” to leave monetary policy on hold for too long. That helped push U.K. bank stocks higher on Wednesday.

After London trading closed Wednesday, Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren said he backs ‘regular and gradual’ interest-rate rises. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump’s tax cuts proposal presented on Wednesday was also seen as reinforcing expectations for a rate rise in December.

The rest of the U.K. market, however, was more muted on Thursday. The benchmark FTSE 100 index UKX, +0.04%  fell 0.1% to 7,303.13, pulling back from a 0.4% gain on Wednesday.

Shares of Imperial Brands PLC IMB, -2.63% IMBBY, +0.40%  dropped 2.1% after the tobacco company said it’s on track to meet its full-year targets and that it’s working on a rescue deal for struggling wholesaler Palmer & Harvey Holdings PLC.

TUI AG TUI, -0.87%  lost 1.3% after the travel operator said recent hurricanes had affected its Caribbean operations. The company, however, still backed its 2017 fiscal guidance and said the summer 2017 season is closing out almost fully sold at 97%.

On the FTSE 250 index MCX, +0.12%  , shares of Stagecoach Group PLC SGC, +1.77% advanced 1.5% after the transportation group reaffirmed its per-share profit guidance.