UPDATE 2-Britain's mid-cap index surges on Brexit optimism

Reuters

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    * FTSE 100 up 0.6 pct
    * FTSE 250 up 1.1 pct
    * Sterling rally aids mid-cap index
    * Frankie & Benny's owner surges on sales rise
    * Just Group slips for 2nd straight day
    * Interserve slumps with administration imminent

 (Recasts, adds company news items, updates with closing prices)
    By Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi
    March 15 (Reuters) - Britain's mid-cap index hit a 5-month
high on Friday, tracking a rally in sterling as talks between
the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party and British
ministers over Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal were
described as "good". 
    The domestically-focused FTSE 250  .FTMC  hit its highest
since Oct. 10 and ended the day up 1.1 percent, while the
blue-chip FTSE 100  .FTSE  rose 0.6 percent for its fifth
straight session in the black. 
    Industrials, consumer and financial stocks together added
more than 140 points to the mid-cap index.
    The Northern Irish party that props up May's government said
it had held good talks with ministers on additional assurances
that would be needed for them to back her twice-defeated Brexit
deal.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2121L3
    Mid-caps were also lifted by gains in Frankie & Benny's
owner Restaurant Group  RTN.L , which jumped 10 percent after
annual pretax profit exceeded its forecast and recently acquired
noodle bar chain Wagamama posted strong sales.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N2122KA
    Ireland's main index  .ISEQ , often considered a gauge of
Brexit mood, added 1.2 percent.
    Britain's parliament on Thursday approved asking the
European Union for a short delay if lawmakers can agree on a
Brexit deal by March 20, or a longer delay if nothing can be
agreed in time.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2112BD urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nBREXIT
    However, Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said the need for
the EU to unanimously approve any delay meant some uncertainty
remained, drawing some investors to defensive stocks.
    British American Tobacco  BATS.L  added 2.7 percent and
Prudential  PRU.L  rose 2.6 percent.
    Credit rating agency Moody's also warned uncertainty around
the Brexit outcome was very high and would continue to weigh on
investment, hiring and spending decisions, which was credit
negative for UK issuers.
    Housebuilders  .FTNMX3720 , considered to be among most
vulnerable to economic hits stemming from Brexit, rose on the
back of Thursday's vote and after a trading update from mid-cap
Berkeley.
    Berkeley  BKGH.L  rose 1.9 percent after it stuck to its
profit target despite softness in Britain's housing market
caused by Brexit uncertainties.
    Retirement services specialist Just Group  JUSTJ.L  slipped
for a second session to close 4.2 percent lower, adding to a 12
percent fall on Thursday which followed a cash call.
 urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL3N21124I
    Interserve  IRV.L  shares lost more than a third of their 
value and were suspended from trading as the heavily indebted
outsourcer was set to go into administration after shareholders
rejected a rescue plan.  urn:newsml:reuters.com:*:nL8N2123XE
    Asia-exposed financial heavyweights gained on Sino-U.S.
trade optimism.
    

 (Reporting by Muvija M and Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru;
Editing by Alison Williams and Kirsten Donovan)
 ((Muvija.M@thomsonreuters.com; within U.S. +1 646 223 8780,
outside U.S. +91 80 6749 3638; Reuters Messaging:
muvija.m.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))
 
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