Wednesday 12 December 2018

Global stocks wobble as US-Russia tensions rise

Traders in the UK and global markets were rattled by fears of a standoff between Trump and Russia.

Tensions between the US and Russia have knocked global stocks (PA)
Tensions between the US and Russia have knocked global stocks (PA)

By Helen Cahill, Press Association City Reporter

The UK market followed global stocks downwards on Wednesday as fears spread of conflict between the US and Russia.

The FTSE 100 closed 0.13% or 9.61 points lower to end the session at 7,257.1 as traders feared an escalation in tensions following an alleged chemical attack in Syria by the Assad regime.

Wall Street opened lower after Donald Trump tweeted a warning to Russia, saying it should “get ready” for strikes on Syria, after the Kremlin vowed to shoot down any incoming missiles.

In early US trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 0.5%, while the S&P 500 dropped by close to 0.3%.

European stocks mirrored the declines across the pond, with the Cac 40 in France down by 0.7% and the Dax in Germany falling by as much as 0.8%.

Jasper Lawler, head of research at London Capital Group, said: “Escalating tensions between the US and Russia in Syria has put the two nations on the brink of war.

“Trump’s tweet reportedly broke national security procedure, and we think that goes some way to explain why markets have not reacted more violently. Investors have gotten so used to bombasts from Trump that there’s a belief he is aiming for ‘a deal’, even when it comes to war.”

Global turmoil also sent oil prices skywards after explosions were heard in Saudi Arabia’s capital.

Television channel Al Arabiya reported that Saudi Arabia had intercepted a rocket above Riyadh, sending Brent crude up 2% to 72.45 dollars a barrel.

In currency markets, the political uncertainty around the US and Russian standoff sent the dollar lower against sterling, which was up 0.12% against the greenback at 1.419.

Meanwhile, against the euro the pound was down 0.1% to 1.146.

Traders were digesting data showing manufacturing and construction growth had slowed in the UK.

Manufacturing output declined unexpectedly in February. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said output from Britain’s factories fell 0.2% month-on-month; experts had predicted a rise for the sector. Output from the construction sector was down by 1.6%, having fallen by 3.1% in January.

In UK stocks, upbeat annual results from Tesco lifted the supermarket sector.

Tesco, the biggest grocer in the UK, reported a 28.4% jump in underlying operating profits to £1.64 billion for the year, while like-for-like sales grew by 2.2% after a 2.3% rise in the final three months.

The supermarket has now delivered rising sales for more than two years in a row, lifting Tesco’s shares by 15.1p to 225.4p by the market close.

Morrisons and Sainsbury’s were also boosted by the news, with Morrisons’ stock rising by 3.4p to 228.8p and Sainsbury’s up by 1.8p to 250.4p.

However, Asos’ shares fell today after investors were spooked by the online retailer’s proposals to spend up to £250 million on boosting its infrastructure to support sales growth. Shares closed the day down 170p to 6,860p.

Retirement builder McCarthy & Stone’s shares also suffered after the company’s profits plummeted more than 50% to £10.5 million for the half-year. Shares closed the day down 5.1p at 132p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Tesco up 15.1p at 225.4p, Fresnillo up 45p at 1,285.5p, Randgold Resources up 150p at 5,876p, and GKN up 8.5p at 434.5p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Coca-Cola HBC down 116p at 2,510p, Centrica down 3.65p at 138.9p, Carnival down 99p to 4,501p, and International Consolidated Airlines Group down 11.6p at 615.6p.

Press Association

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