UPDATE 2-British midcaps at record highs on recovery optimism; weaker pound lifts FTSE 100
(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window)
* FTSE 250 hits record high
* Saga jumps on strong trading in its insurance business
* FTSE 100 up 0.9%, FTSE 250 adds 0.8% (Updates to close)
By Devik Jain and Shashank Nayar
April 7 (Reuters) - London's FTSE 100 ended higher on Wednesday, led by gains in commodity stocks and a weaker pound lifted exporters, while mid-caps closed at record highs due to a surge in shares that stand to benefit as the economy reopens.
The blue-chip index .FTSE rose 0.9%, with heavyweights including Unilever ULVR.L and HSBC Holdings HSBA.L , gaining between 1.9% and 2.1% on a weaker pound. GBP=
Commodity-focused stocks boosted the index, with BP Plc BP.L and Royal Dutch Shell Plc RDSa.L gaining 1.9% and 1.0%, respectively, while miners Rio Tinto RIO.L , BHP Group (JO: BHPJ ) BHPB.L added more than 2%. O/R MET/L
"British equities have now got a good momentum, there is a clear path for businesses to return to action and with COVID cases coming down, the outlook among investors is extremely positive," said Michael Baker, an analyst at ETX Capital.
The mid-cap FTSE 250 index .FTMC rose 0.8% to its all-time high.
"We expect UK equities to gain further as the COVID vaccination drive gains more ground, markets are expected to catch up to its European peers," added Baker.
Britain began rolling out Moderna Inc's MRNA.O COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday in Wales in a boost to the health system after supplies of other shots started to slow. FTSE 100 has risen 6.6% so far this year, supported by speedy vaccine rollouts and a raft of economic stimulus, but has been range-bound since early-January as a resurgence in virus cases across Europe and heightened treasury bond yields made investors cautious.
Among other stocks, Hilton Food Group HFG.L rose 2.9% on higher annual pre-tax profit, while over-50s holidays group Saga SAGA.L jumped 11.4% after it posted profit on an underlying basis. ROO.L gained 2.1%, the first day retail investors could trade the stock bought during the food delivery group's initial public offering, even as some of its riders cycled through London to demand fair pay.
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