Wednesday 23 May 2018

FTSE 100 finishes in red as White House turmoil takes toll on markets

Analysts pointed to the departure of Rex Tillerson on Tuesday along with growing fears of a trade war.

Morrisons sales and profit hike
Morrisons sales and profit hike

By Ravender Sembhy, Press Association City Editor

The FTSE 100 gave up gains to finish in the red on Wednesday, with European stock markets following Wall Street lower as turmoil in the White House continues to weigh on sentiment.

London’s top flight closed down 0.1%, or 6.09 points, at 7,132.69, having spent most of the day in positive territory.

Analysts pointed to the departure of Donald Trump’s secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Tuesday along with growing fears of a trade war as dragging down the Dow Jones, which had a knock-on effect.

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, said: “Given that the European markets have been regularly taking their cues from the US in the last few weeks, it was no surprise that the region’s indices began to shed their morning growth after the bell rang on Wall Street.”

Morrisons was the index’s biggest faller, the supermarket giant shedding 4.9% to close at 215.3p, despite posting a 16.9% leap in bottom line annual profits to £380 million.

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It marked the group’s ninth quarter in a row of rising sales and came alongside the announcement of a special 4p a share dividend, taking the total full year divi to 10.09p a share.

But it was not enough to cheer shareholders with Ken Odeluga, market analyst at City Index, saying investors might be acting on a “more tempered” view of the future in a brutal grocery sector.

At the other end, Prudential topped the FTSE 100 after the insurance giant announced plans to split its UK and European unit from the rest of the business, as it booked a 6% rise in group profits for 2017.

Shares ended up 5.07% at 1,918p.

Unilever shares were flat at the close, with investors seemingly unmoved by reports that it has picked Rotterdam over London for its central headquarters in a major blow to Brexit Britain.

Miners Antofagasta, Anglo American and Glencore also performed well as their shares were buoyed by solid industrial production data from China overnight.

The FTSE 250 ended down 0.22%, or 43.11 points, at 19,820.12.

Dignity was the biggest riser on the second tier after the funeral firm called in management consultants LEK to help lead a revamp to fight off increasing competition, with shares bouncing 15% to 982p on the news.

It marked a welcome relief for the company, which saw shares plunge to their lowest level for six years after warning in January over a hit from moves to slash prices as part of its fightback against rivals.

Shares in construction giant Balfour Beatty also rose, by 1.84% to 282p, after it reported annual profits more than doubling despite a £44 million hit from the collapse of Carillion.

The group behind the Crossrail project has reported underlying pre-tax profits of £196 million for 2017 – up from £69 million the previous year.

On AIM, Conviviality shares were suspended after the Bargain Booze owner revealed that it owes the taxman £30 million, a bill that could further dent profits.

Across Europe, the French Cac 40 closed down 0.18% while the German Dax ended the day up 0.14%.

In currency markets, the pound was trading broadly flat against the US dollar and the euro at 1.395 and 1.127 respectively.

Brent crude prices dipped 0.26% to around 64.47 US dollars per barrel.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Prudential up 92.5p to 1,918p, Antofagasta up 31.8p to 946.2p, Anglo American up 57.8p to 1,789.4p, Glencore up 6.85p to 383.55p and GKN up 7.7p to 437.7p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Morrisons down 11p to 215.3p, BP down 9.25p to 464.75p, Old Mutual down 4.8p to 250.9p, Mediclinic down 11p to 598.2p and Kingfisher down 6.2p to 347.9p.

Press Association

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