By Carla Mozee, MarketWatch
Sports Direct lands ratings upgrade
U.K. stocks finished at a record high Monday, with HSBC PLC marking its strongest session in nearly two years following a report the company is looking at spinning off its U.K. retail bank.
The FTSE 100 gained 0.5% to end at 7,103.98, surpassing its previous all-time closing high of 7,096.78 it logged on April 15, according to FactSet data.
Stocks turned higher with equities across Europe on the prospect that Greece's tense negotiations with creditors may improve as the team handling the talks was revamped (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/greek-finance-minister-may-lose-influence-in-creditors-talks-2015-04-27) by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. There are concerns that if Greece doesn't resolve its debt troubles, it may have to leave the eurozone.
Banks: Back in London, HSBC jumped 3.1%, its best gain since July 2013, after the Sunday Times reported that the lender is weighing a deal valued at 20 billion pounds ($30.4 billion) that would see it spin off its retail bank.
Some analysts noted that HSBC has previously denied speculation that it will rid itself of the U.K. retail assets. What's key this time around is it "shows that HSBC [is] considering all options to maximize value for shareholders," said Berenberg analyst James Chappell, in a note Monday.
"We continue to believe HSBC is undervalued considering its 6% yield and that there has been significant change already in the business," Chappell added.
HSBC said Friday it is thinking about moving its headquarters out of London (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hsbc-considers-quitting-the-uk-2015-04-24) as it assesses changes in the U.K. regulatory landscape. Standard & Poor's on Monday said the U.K.'s largest four banks may have to pay up to GBP19 billion combined over the next two years related to past misconduct charges. HSBC, Barclays PLC , Lloyds Banking Group PLC , Royal Bank of Scotland have already shelled out GBP42 billion in the five years to 2014, the agency said.
Read: HSBC may ditch London, but most other banks likely to stay put (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hsbc-may-ditch-london-but-dont-expect-a-flood-of-lenders-to-leave-2015-04-24).
Shares of Standard Chartered PLC ended Monday's session up by 4.3%. There is been talk the Asia-focused bank is considering moving its home base out of London. Standard Chartered is slated to release an interim quarterly update Tuesday.
Shares of Barclays closed up 0.8%, RBS rose 0.6% while Lloyds shares lost 0.6%.
Movers: Shares of BP PLC (>> BP plc) shares fell 0.3% after the U.K. government told the oil giant that it would oppose any potential foreign takeover (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bp-told-uk-government-would-oppose-a-foreign-takeover-2015-04-27) of the British heavyweight. As oil prices have slid, there is been speculation about possible deal-making involving BP. This month, Royal Dutch Shell PLC agreed to take over BG Group PLC .
BP is expected to release its first-quarter results on Tuesday.
Centrica shares turned higher, by 1.7%. The parent company of British Gas said it is trading in line with guidance (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/centrica-trading-in-line-with-guidance-2015-04-27-34853946), with colder-than-normal weather in the U.K. and North America leading to higher energy consumption.
Retailer Sports Direct International's shares tacked on 2% after RBC Capital Markets raised its ratings the retailer to sector perform, from underperform. "Although we believe consensus EPS forecasts are too high owing to dollar-sourcing risk, valuation has corrected to more in line with historic averages and the sector," RBC said.
Stocks mentioned in the article : BP plc