Saturday 24 March 2018

FTSE flirts with record high as pound sinks

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)

Stocks rose on Wednesday as investors looked to close the month on a high, while sterling fell after an opinion poll suggested the ruling Conservative Party could lose seats in next week's UK general election, potentially leading to a hung parliament.

In London Britain's FTSE 100 flirted with a record high on Wednesday and was poised for its best month of the year.

World stocks are poised to end May up nearly 2pc, marking the seventh straight monthly increase and the longest monthly winning streak in over a decade.

In Dublin the Iseq index was down yesterday by around half a percent at 6,959.58, and is well below the highs seen earlier in May.

Risers at home included travel companies Dalata (+2.60) and Hostelworld (+6.27). Oil explorer Petroneft shares were down 20pc at one stage, reflecting in part softer global oil markets.

Globally, the MSCI equity index rose 0.1pc on Wednesday and Germany's DAX rose 0.5pc.

European stocks gained 0.2pc after a sharp fall in euro zone inflation led investors to believe the European Central Bank won't be quite as hawkish at its policy meeting next week as had been expected.

"The data suggests no need for the ECB to raise its refinancing rate before 2019. In the meantime, the Governing Council will feel comfortable enough to turn more neutral in its risk assessment at its meeting next week," said Florian Hense, economist at Berenberg Bank.

The first estimate of euro zone inflation this month showed a fall to 1.4pc from 1.9pc in April, falling short of analysts' forecast of 1.5pc. Euro zone unemployment fell to an eight-year low of 9.3pc, also below consensus.

The biggest mover in currencies was sterling, which shed as much as 0.5pc after a YouGov poll showed the Conservatives might lose 20 of the 330 seats it holds while the opposition Labour Party could gain nearly 30 seats.

However, the euro shrugged off the soft inflation data and rose 0.3pc to $1.1217, while 10-year German bond yields retreated from an earlier rise to trade steady on the day at 0.294pc. The dollar was down 0.1pc against the yen at 110.75 yen, and the 10-year US Treasury yield was also flat on the day at 2.22pc. Two weeks ago it was at 2.41pc.

Oil prices remained soft, as concerns lingered about whether output cuts by Opec and other producing countries will be enough to support prices. US crude futures fell 2.2pc. Global benchmark brent was down 2.5pc at $50.53 a barrel.

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