(Alliance News) - London's FTSE 100 overcame a muted morning to head into Friday afternoon on the up, though its progress was shy of the loftier gains seen by mainland European peers, as investors showed some signs of trepidation ahead of a pair of interest rate decisions next week.

The FTSE 100 index rose 16.41 points, 0.2%, at 7,759.56. The FTSE 250 climbed 53.30 points, 0.3%, to 19,539.31, and the AIM All-Share added 1.69 points, 0.2%, to 739.79.

The Cboe UK 100 was up 0.2% at 777.12, the Cboe UK 250 added 0.3% to 16,959.56, and the Cboe Small Companies was up 0.2% at 14,683.99.

In European equities on Friday, the CAC 40 in Paris climbed 0.6%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was 0.4% higher.

"Most of the European indices were flat to moderately high on the last trading day of the week," AJ Bell analyst Russ Mould commented.

Mould noted energy and resources stocks were among the better performers in London, with Shell up 0.6%, BP rising 0.5% and miner Glencore adding 2.5%.

Boosting oil majors Shell and BP, a barrel of Brent fetched USD84.93 early Friday afternoon, up slightly from USD84.91 late Thursday.

Trade in consumer-focused sectors was largely nervy, however. Consumer goods maker Reckitt gave back 7.2%, with the stock hitting a 12-month low of 4,865.66 pence.

ActivTrades analyst Pierre Veyret commented: "Yesterday's US PPI data cooled investors' appetite for risk after it confirmed the rising price acceleration for February, first seen in the latest US CPI reading last week. This doesn't support the case of a quick dovish move from the Fed. The FOMC meeting will take place next week, and no rate move is expected from the central bank. However, investors will still try to get more clues on the likely pace and schedule of the next monetary easing cycle during Fed Chairman Powell's press conference.

Veyret added: "With most of the big news behind us and the FOMC meeting looming, we don't expect any sharp and directional move for equities during today's session."

Numbers on Thursday showed US producer prices by 1.6% on-year in February, ahead of a forecast 1.1% climb. In January, prices had risen by 1.0% on-year.

Stocks in New York are called to open higher on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite are all called up 0.2%.

After the Fed on Wednesday, the Bank of England is also expected to leave interest rates unmoved Thursday.

ING analysts commented: "Expect the Bank of England to use Thursday's decision to reiterate that rates need to stay restrictive for an extended period of time, a signal that it's too early to contemplate policy easing. We expect the first rate cut to come in August."

In London, Vodafone rose 3.9%. It has agreed to sell its Italian business to Swisscom for EUR8 billion and will return half of the proceeds to shareholders.

Also rising on a buyback pledge, tech investor Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust added 4.2%. It is setting aside GBP1 billion for share buybacks over the next two years, as strong results at its portfolio companies have made them self-funding.

Scottish Mortgage is managed by Baillie Gifford & Co. It invests in growth companies globally, and its holdings are a who's who of tech stocks, including Nvidia, Amazon, Tencent, and Meta Platforms.

Volution rose 4.5%, among the best FTSE 250 performers after it received rave reviews on the back of robust half-year earnings.

The energy-efficient indoor air quality solutions firm said pretax profit in the six months to January 31 rose 28% to GBP29.0 million from GBP22.6 million. Revenue rose 6.3% to GBP172.5 million from GBP162.3 million.

In addition, it lifted its interim dividend by 12% to 2.8p per share from 2.5p.

Analysts at Davy commented: "Given this points to another year of earnings growth, it continues to position Volution as a positive outlier in a construction/building products sector context."

Elsewhere in London, STV Group shot up 4.2% after its Studios arm won its first commissioning with streaming firm Netflix.

The Glasgow-based television broadcaster and content producer said it will work with Netflix to produce The Witness, a drama series which will comprise three 60-minute episodes.

STV Managing Director David Mortimer said: "This is STV Studios first commission for Netflix, and we very much look forward to collaborating with them on this project, which our experienced and committed drama team will produce with the utmost sensitivity and care that it deserves."

Gold was quoted at USD2,167.04 an ounce early Friday, up from USD2,154.76 at the time of the London equities close Thursday.

By Eric Cunha, Alliance News news editor

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