Tuesday 20 August 2019

Housebuilders wobble on Hammond's UK budget

Housebuilding stocks swung sharply, losing ground after Hammond announced a review of unused planning permissions. Stock photo
Housebuilding stocks swung sharply, losing ground after Hammond announced a review of unused planning permissions. Stock photo

Britain's top share index touched a session high as UK chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his budget statement on Wednesday, boosted by a dip in sterling as Brexit-bound Britain slashed economic growth forecasts.

Housebuilding stocks swung sharply, losing ground after Hammond announced a review of unused planning permissions - a sign he'll get tough on land hoarding - but helped by a stamp duty exemption to spur house buying.

European shares traded only slightly higher ahead of today's holiday in the US, losing some of the momentum that pushed stocks in Asia and on Wall Street to new highs overnight on continued faith in synchronised global economic growth.

"I see very few people repositioning themselves on the markets before a period of low liquidity like Thanksgiving," said Pierre Martin, a senior trader at Saxo Bank.

He argued that many investors had taken advantage of last week's dip to take new positions on stocks but that in the absence of major economic or corporate news, there was currently little incentive for them to aggressively seek new opportunities.

In Dublin, the Iseq was weaker - trading at 6,904.97 by late afternoon. Among gainers Aryzta, Ryanair and Total Produce led the board in Ireland.

Norwegian media group Schibsted posted the sharpest decline of the index after an offering of B-shares to finance mergers and acquisitions in online classifieds. Its shares retreated 7.1pc.

Utilities posted the best sectoral performance in Europe, with Germany's RWE and Spain's Endesa leading the pack with rises of 3pc and 2pc respectively.

UBS upgraded RWE to "buy", saying coal and carbon risks may have been overestimated, while Moody's raised its forecasts for French power pricing, reflecting a rebound in commodity prices.

Akzo Nobel rose after it called off a merger of equals with US coatings company Axalta.

On the domestic UK corporate front, travel firm Thomas Cook was set for its worst trading day since the Brexit referendum in June 2016, falling 10.5pc after reporting a fall in full-year profit margins.

British drugs company BTG was leading losers on the FTSE as JP Morgan cut its target price on the stock.

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