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LONDON MARKETS: U.K. Stocks Advance, But Shire Loses Grip Of Gains

By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Stocks in the U.K. rose Tuesday, with the FTSE 100 benefitting from gains in BP PLC shares, but Shire PLC was knocked off the list of advancers as prospects of a takeover offer for the biopharmaceutical firm dimmed. The FTSE 100 settled higher by 1% at 6,769.91, building on Monday's gain of 0.2% when drug maker AstraZeneca PLC jumped 14% on indications Pfizer Inc. (PFE) may step up its takeover efforts. AstraZeneca shares on Tuesday slipped 0.7%. Shire shares had been the best price performer for much of the session, but they turned lower by 0.7% following a Bloomberg report that potential suitor Allergan Inc. (AGN) has approached Sanofi (SNY), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and other companies to gauge their interest in buying the company. Shire shares had earlier jumped by as much as 6.2% in the wake of a Reuters report Monday that Allergan had contacted Shire about a potential acquisition but the talks didn't pan out. Allergan itself is currently being pursued by larger rival Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) in partnership with activist investor Bill Ackman. Shares of FTSE 100 heavyweight BP , meanwhile, extended their rise to 2.9% after the oil major raised its dividend to 9.75 cents a share from 9 cents a share last year. First-quarter production fell 8.5% to 2.13 million barrels of oil a day and revenue declined to $91.71 billion from $94.11 billion a year ago. London-listed stocks held steady after the U.K. Office for National Statistics said the economy grew by 0.8% in the first three months of the year, just shy of the 0.9% growth analysts polled by The Wall Street Journal had expected. The quarterly rate was also lower than the Bank of England's estimate of 1%. Gross domestic product for the first quarter rose 3.1% on a year-over-year basis. Read: UK figures put BOE in sweet spot "The details paint the picture of a broad-based recovery not devoid of business investment, not just dependent on the consumer to rally around," said Nick Beecroft, senior markets analyst at Saxo Bank in an interview Tuesday, adding that GDP may be upwardly revised toward 1%. Trade is now being impacted by strength in the pound, but eventually "trade can start to pull its weight as well," as the U.S. and euro-zone economies improve and as China stabilizes, said Beecroft. The pound (GBPUSD) initially dropped against the U.S. dollar after the data, to $1.6799, from $1.685 earlier Tuesday and Monday's level around $1.6809. Britain's currency has since come off its lows to buy $1.6829. Meanwhile, the Bank of England will test how major British banks would fare under a 35% drop in housing prices and a jump in interest rates as a way to measure their resilience in times of an economic shock. The tests will run alongside wider European bank stress tests. Banking stocks moved higher for the day, with HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBC) advancing 1.7%, Royal Bank of Scotland PLC (RBS) climbing 1.9%, Lloyds Banking Group PLC gaining 1.2% and Barclays PLC rising 0.5%. Separately, Barclays said the chief executive of its U.S. division, Hugh (Skip) McGee III will step down at the end of this month, to be succeeded by Joe Gold, who serves as global head of client capital management, on May 1. Off the FTSE 100, government-services provider Serco Group PLC warned of a possible downward revision to its expectations, spurring a 15% slide in shares. More news from MarketWatch: FBI unit to help find pillaged foreign assets Cirrus Logic to buy Wolfson Microelectronics PLC Subscribe to WSJ:

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