Thursday 18 January 2018

London’s top flight secures fresh record despite retail stocks slump

The FTSE 100 Index rose 24.77 points to reach a record 7,695.88.

London’s premier index continued its remarkable ascent (Philip Toscano/PA)
London’s premier index continued its remarkable ascent (Philip Toscano/PA)

By Ben Woods, Press Association Chief City Correspondent

Financial markets secured fresh records on either side of the Atlantic on Thursday, with the FTSE 100 Index brushing aside plunging retail stocks to reach another all-time high.

London’s premier index continued its remarkable ascent, climbing 24.77 points to 7,695.88 and topping a previous record of 7,687.77 booked on the last day of trading in 2017.

US stock markets were also in a buoyant mood, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average smashed through the 25,000 mark for the first time following a strong batch of US employment data.

The Dow was trading 0.5% higher when the London market closed, with Germany’s Dax and the Cac 40 in France also lifting 1.5% and 1.6% respectively.

On the currency markets, the pound rose 0.2% against the US dollar to 1.354 as traders cheered bright data from the UK economy.

UK economic growth is set to accelerate in the fourth quarter of 2017 after output in the powerhouse services sector chalked up a better-than-expected performance last month.

The IHS Markit/CIPS services purchasing managers’ index (PMI) showed a reading of 54.2 in December, up from 53.8 in November, with economists pencilling in a figure of 54.

A reading above 50 indicates growth.

Chris Williamson, IHS Markit’s chief business economist, said the robust result could help the UK economy achieve 0.5% growth in the final three months of last year, up from 0.4% in the third quarter.

However, sterling failed to make headway against the euro, as the UK currency slipped 0.3% to 1.122.

The price of oil hit a fresh two-and-a-half year high as the biggest anti-government protests in Iran for nearly a decade sent the cost of crude soaring.

Brent crude surpassed 68 US dollars a barrel at one stage – the highest since May 2015 – before easing back slightly to 67.94 US dollars.

The latest surge comes as tensions in major oil producer Iran fuel buying pressure, with major protests over the past week due to rising discontent over economic growth and the cost of living.

Market analyst David Madden, at CMC Markets, said: “The anti-government protests won’t have a direct effect on oil exports, but in situations like this dealers tend to assume the worst.

“The country is the third largest member of (oil cartel) Opec, and the images of protesters on the street are spooking traders.”

In UK stocks, department store chain Debenhams sent retail stocks crashing into the red after it warned over profits and slashed prices to boost flagging sales over the festive period.

In a trading update brought forward from next week, the retailer said UK like-for-like sales tumbled 2.6% in the 17 weeks to December 30, with overall group sales down 1.8%.

It said “tactical promotional action” helped group sales improve over the six-week Christmas period, rising by 1.2% on a like-for-like basis, but it saw worse-than-expected trading in the first week of the post-Christmas sales.

Shares were down more than 14%, or 5.24p to 30.34p, with the slump also hitting Marks & Spencer and Next, which dropped 11.7p to 308.8p and 52p to 4,748p respectively.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were: NMC Health up 160p to 3,080p, G4S up 8.6p to 273.9p, Worldpay up 12.8p to 435.6p, CRH up 65p to 2,744p.

The biggest fallers were: Marks & Spencer down 11.7p to 308.8p, British Land Company down 20.8p to 665.2p, Hammerson down 13.8p to 533.2p, Land Securities down 23.6p to 971.3p.

Press Association

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