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FTSE 100 Inches Higher Before Brexit Debate

(RTTNews) - U.K. stocks were modestly higher on Thursday as Chinese trade data easily beat expectations and investors looked ahead to another Brexit vote in Parliament on the Prime Minister's EU withdrawal stance.

Chinese exports rose 9.1 percent year-on-year in January, defying economists' expectations for a 3.2 percent fall.

Imports fell 1.5 percent year-on-year, which was much smaller than the 10 percent slump economists had forecast.

"The January trade data were much stronger than anticipated but seasonal volatility caused by annual shifts in the timing of Chinese New Year make it difficult to get a good grip on underlying trends at this time of year," Capital Economics economist Julian Evans-Pritchard said.

Investors pinned hopes for a possible U.S.-China trade deal after negotiators from both countries began senior-level talks in Beijing.

The benchmark FTSE 100 was up 19 points or 0.27 percent at 7,210 in opening deals after climbing 0.8 percent in the previous session.

Drugmaker Indivior soared 6 percent. The company posted fourth-quarter net income of $24 million, compared to prior year's loss of $145 million.

Engine maker Rolls-Royce Holdings rose over 1 percent after it secured an order for Trent 7000 engines to power 40 Airbus A330neo aircraft from UAE-based Emirates.

easyJet shares rose half a percent. The budget airline said it is in
discussions with Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane and Delta Air Lines Inc. about forming a consortium to explore options for the future operations of Alitalia.

Restaurant Group slumped 11 percent. The company's CEO Andy McCue is leaving the firm due to extenuating personal circumstances.

AstraZeneca rallied 4.5 percent after it forecast a second straight year of sales growth.

Investment manager Ashmore Group fell almost 7 percent on reporting a 6 percent fall in first-half pretax profit.

Software product group Micro Focus International jumped 11 percent after extending a share buyback program.
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