UK stock markets close at a record high

UK stock markets climbed to new highs on the final day of trading for 2017.

Both the FTSE 100 index of leading blue chip companies and the FTSE 250 reached new records at the close of trading.

US stock markets have also hit new peaks over the year, helped by Donald Trump's sweeping tax reforms.

Stephen Eckett, author of the annual Harriman Stock Market Almanac, said: "All the dangers that were anticipated with a Trump administration haven't materialised."

The FTSE 100 finished up 7.6% at 7,687.77 compared with the last day of trading in 2016.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 250 ended 14.7% ahead at 20,726.26 compared with the end of last year.

Mr Eckett said: "It has been a little bit of a surprise to many people that markets were are strong as they were this year."

George Salmon, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said the FTSE 100 had been lifted by natural resource giants such as Shell and BP which have benefitted from a rise in oil prices.

Brent crude fell as low as $45 per barrel in June but is now trading at $66.34.

US stock markets

However, John Botham, global equities product director at City firm, Invesco Perpetual, said that, while the UK's leading index is at a record high, "the FTSE 100 has performed far less well than the US stock market and indeed many stock markets around the world".

In the US, the main stock market indexes have all risen by more than 20% this year.

They have been further boosted by President Donald Trump's sweeping tax reform.

Under the changes, the US corporate tax rate will fall from 35% to 21% in 2018.

US markets will close their final trading session later on Friday.

Commenting on the year ahead, Mr Botham said: "We are looking at a situation where global growth seems reasonably well synchronised and we are likely to continue to see earnings growth from companies around the world."

The Brexit effect

Housebuilders were among the best performing companies on the FTSE 100 in 2017.

Berkeley Group, which mainly builds luxury homes in London, rejoined the blue chip index in September and has seen its share price rise by more than 50% this year.

Berkeley had fallen out of the FTSE 100 last August and into the FTSE 250 after its share price tumbled on fears that the UK's vote to leave the European Union would adversely impact on the housing market.

Fellow property group Persimmon saw its share price rise by 57%.

However, Mr Salmon said: "Not all of the referendum effects have blown over."

Businesses such as advertising giant WPP and broadcaster ITV were among the worst performers as companies reduced investment in marketing.

"Advertising spending does fall into discretionary spending," said Mr Salmon.

NMC Healthcare, which is one of the largest private healthcare providers in the UAE, saw its share price jump by 84% after expanding its operations in the Middle East.

Shares in British Gas-owner Centrica endured a bumpy year, falling 41% after being buffeted by Prime Minister Theresa May's revived plan to put a price cap on energy bills.

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