(Alliance News) - The FTSE 100 was firmly in the green on Thursday, with Standard Chartered and Smurfit Kappa leading the charge.

The FTSE 100 index closed up 50.91 points, 0.6%, at 8,172.15. The FTSE 250 ended up 125.74 points, 0.6%, at 20,052.33, and the AIM All-Share closed up 3.13 points, 0.4%, at 768.11.

The Cboe UK 100 ended up 0.6% at 816.16, the Cboe UK 250 closed up 0.7% at 17,347.81, and the Cboe Small Companies ended up 0.1% at 15,780.11.

In European equities on Thursday, the CAC 40 in Paris ended down 0.9%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt ended down 0.2%.

"The chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell gave with one hand and took away with the other from a market perspective," said AJ Bell investment director Russ Mould.

The US central bank left interest rates unchanged on Wednesday, but flagged a "lack of progress" towards its inflation target. In a widely expected move, the Federal Reserve kept its benchmark borrowing rate in a targeted range between 5.25% to 5.50%.

Powell downplayed fears that the next move on interest rates could be upwards, suggesting policy will prove restrictive enough to lower inflation. However, he also dashed hopes for a near-term rate cut, noting it was taking longer to gain confidence that inflation was on track to hit the central bank's 2% target.

In economic news Thursday, US initial jobless claims were lower than expected in the week just gone, numbers showed.

According to the Department of Labor, initial claims for unemployment benefits in the week to April 27 amounted to 208,000, unchanged from a week prior. The prior reading was upwardly revised slightly from 207,000.

The latest figure was below the FXStreet cited consensus of 212,000.

Figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, meanwhile, showed the US goods and services trade deficit narrowed slightly in March. The deficit amounted to USD69.4 billion in March, easing slightly from USD69.5 billion in February.

Stocks in New York were higher at the London equities close, with the DJIA up 0.5%, the S&P 500 index up 0.4%, and the Nasdaq Composite up 0.7%.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2487 at the London equities close Thursday, unchanged from the close on Wednesday.

The euro stood at USD1.0690 at the European equities close Thursday, higher against USD1.0679 at the same time on Wednesday.

Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY154.05, down compared to JPY157.72 late Wednesday.

In the FTSE 100, Standard Chartered rose 8.8%.

The London-based, Asia-focused bank reported operating income of USD5.13 billion in the first quarter, a 13% increase from USD4.56 billion.

Pretax profit rose 5.9% to USD1.91 billion from USD1.81 billion, beating the company-compiled market consensus of USD1.39 billion.

The firm reaffirmed its previous guidance for 2024 as a whole. It plans to return "at least" USD5 billion to shareholders over 2024 to 2026, with its RoTE, or return on tangible equity, to "increase steadily" from 10% towards a 12% target by 2026.

Smurfit Kappa jumped 5.8%.

The Dublin-based packaging maker said revenue in the first quarter fell 10% to EUR2.7 billion from EUR3.00 billion a year prior.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation fell 16% to EUR487 million from EUR579 million. Analysts at Jefferies said Ebitda was 12% ahead of its EUR433 million forecast.

In the FTSE 250, Moneysupermarket.com rose 4.8%, after it said it will change its corporate holding company name to Mony Group.

The Chester, England-based price comparison website said this reflects how the group has evolved in recent years to "become the UK's leading listed tech-based savings platform".

Amongst London's small-caps, Reach jumped 9.0%.

The newspaper, magazine and digital publisher said it is on track to deliver on its full-year expectations, despite revenue falling in the first quarter of 2024.

"We have set the business up to succeed - the decision to take cost action early, alongside the continued implementation of the customer value strategy is delivering a growing yield performance and driving results. This gives me confidence that we can continue to navigate current market conditions," said Chief Executive Officer Jim Mullen.

Brent oil was quoted at USD83.40 a barrel at the London equities close Thursday, down from USD83.78 late Wednesday.

Gold was quoted at USD2,303.10 an ounce at the London equities close Thursday, down against USD2,308.30 at the close on Wednesday.

In Friday's UK corporate calendar, there are full year results from Trainline. There are trading statements from InterContinental Hotels and Mondi.

The economic calendar for Friday has unemployment data from the eurozone.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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