(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London closed higher on Thursday, after data showed that the UK economy slipped into recession in the final quarter of 2023, buoying hopes for interest rate cuts from the Bank of England.

"Confirmation that the UK is in recession has done nothing to knock UK stocks off course. An economy pushing through mud is not new news and if anything, it might encourage the Bank of England to think harder about cutting interest rates to avoid further economic deterioration. That's certainly how the market views the situation as UK equities ploughed ahead," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 29.13 points, 0.4%, at 7,597.53. The FTSE 250 ended up 95.73 points, 0.5%, at 19,099.62, and the AIM All-Share closed up 2.53 points, 0.3%, at 752.98.

The Cboe UK 100 ended up 0.6% at 760.05, the Cboe UK 250 closed up 0.3% at 16,512.77, and the Cboe Small Companies ended up 1.2% at 14,572.33.

In European equities on Thursday, the CAC 40 in Paris ended up 0.9%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended up 0.6%.

The UK economy suffered a sharper than expected decline in the final quarter of last year, entering a technical recession, according to numbers from the Office for National Statistics.

UK gross domestic product slumped 0.3% in the three months to December from a quarter earlier, underperforming the expected 0.1% fall, according to consensus cited by FXStreet.

The UK economy had declined 0.1% quarter-on-quarter in the third-quarter of 2023.

It means the UK has entered a technical recession, which is generally defined as two successive quarterly falls in gross domestic product.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2581 at the London equities close Thursday, higher compared to USD1.2542 at the close on Wednesday.

US initial jobless claims were lower than expected in the week just gone, the latest numbers showed, though retail sales underperformed consensus.

According to the Department of Labor, initial jobless claims fell to 212,000 in the week to February 10, from 220,000 a week prior. The previous week's figure was upwardly revised from 218,000.

The latest figure had been expected to land at 220,000, according to FXStreet cited consensus, which would have been in line with the revised figure from the previous week.

Stocks in New York were mixed at the London equities close, with the DJIA up 0.4% and the S&P 500 index up 0.1%. However, the Nasdaq Composite was down 0.3%.

The euro stood at USD1.0759 at the European equities close Thursday, higher against USD1.0720 at the same time on Wednesday. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY150.11, down compared to JPY150.62 late Wednesday.

In the FTSE 100, BP and Shell fell 1.6% and 1.3%, respectively.

Brent oil was quoted essentially flat at USD82.66 a barrel at the London equities close Thursday from USD82.63 late Wednesday.

Also putting pressure on the FTSE 100, tobacco company Imperial Brands fell 3.4%. Its stock went ex-dividend on Thursday, meaning new buyers do not qualify for the latest payout.

In the FTSE 250, Close Brothers 23%.

The merchant bank axed its dividend, as it prepares for a possible hit from a UK watchdog probe.

Close Brothers cautioned on a "potential financial impact" stemming from the UK Financial Conduct Authority's probe of historical motor finance commission arrangements.

The UK financial services watchdog in January explained it is probing whether compensation could be due for people who were potentially overcharged for car loans.

If it finds misconduct, those affected will be compensated. The FCA said it heard from over 10,000 people who are concerned they were charged too much. It added there could be even more yet to come forward.

Genus plunged 16%.

The animal genetics biotechnology company warned that Chinese porcine markets continued to be "challenging", as it anticipates reporting lower revenue and adjusted pretax profit for its recent half-year.

Genus expects to report adjusted pretax profit for the financial first-half ended December 31 of GBP29 million on revenue of GBP334 million.

Both outcomes will be in line with expectations, but they would represent a 31% slump in adjusted pretax profit from GBP42.2 million a year before and a 4.6% decline on the top line from GBP350.2 million.

Amongst London's small-caps, EnQuest rose 8.1%.

The oil and gas production company boasted of its de-leveraged balance sheet and strong 2023 production.

Chief Executive Officer Amjad Bseisu said: "EnQuest delivered another good year of operational performance in 2023...Having de-levered the business and with debt maturities reset to 2027, we now aim to build on that strong foundation, utilising our differentiated operating capability and tax assets as we pivot the business to refocus on future growth during 2024."

Gold was quoted at USD1,999.98 an ounce at the London equities close Thursday, up against USD1,988.99 at the close on Wednesday.

In Friday's UK corporate calendar, has full year results for NatWest.

The economic calendar for Friday has producer price inflation data for the US, which will be released at 1330 GMT.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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