FTSE seals weekly gain as pound dips

December 16
05:07 2017

By Helen Reid

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s major stock index climbed on Friday at the end of a busy week of central bank meetings, reversing earlier losses thanks to a sliding pound and buoyant oil stocks.

The FTSE 100 edged up 0.6 percent, closing the week up 1.2 percent, having hit its highest level in a month on Wednesday. It reversed earlier losses as the pound fell, delivering a boost to foreign-exposed companies.

Sterling fell as the EU moved Brexit talks on to the next phase.

Oil majors Shell and BP propelled the index higher as crude prices recovered, lifted by the Forties pipeline outage in the North Sea.

Financial stocks fell, continuing a slide from the previous session as investors’ enthusiasm around bank stocks – expected to gain from U.S. tax reform and rising interest rates – dissipated.

Thursday’s Bank of England and ECB meetings made clear that, at least in the European region, lenders would have longer to wait for monetary policy to tighten.

“It’s hardly new news that the central banks are telling us again that stimulus withdrawals are going to be very gradual,” said Ian Williams, economist and strategist at Peel Hunt.

“The long-term trend in rates will be up, but I think it’s going to take a long time so the financials are responding the most to that,” he added.

HSBC, Standard Chartered and Barclays fell 0.7, 0.3 and 0.2 percent.

Sky rose 2.8 percent, the biggest FTSE gainer, after striking a deal with BT to carry each other’s channels.

BT also gained 1.4 percent.

Gold miner Fresnillo was near the top of the FTSE leader board as gold prices gained on a weaker U.S. dollar. Randgold Resources also rose 0.5 percent.

With few large stock moves to puncture calm trading, broker ratings drove Glencore and Segro higher.

JP Morgan analysts upgraded Glencore to “overweight”, boosting the stock by 1.5 percent.

Analysts at the bank said: “Growth, capital discipline and valuations support higher beta.”

Commercial real estate investment trust Segro gained 1.1 percent after Liberum upgraded it to “buy”, citing greater growth in the industrial sector around London.

“Investment demand for industrial estate continues to drive strong capital growth,” said Liberum analysts.

“We expect full-year results to confirm sustained strong occupier demand supporting like-for-like rental growth and development completions,” they added.

Small-cap LED lighting maker Luceco sank 45 percent after the firm said financial controller Ian Pritchard resigned after misvaluing the company’s stock.

The error resulted in an unexpected weakening of the gross margin, leading to a 3.5 million pound reduction in profit after tax.

The gap between winners and losers in UK stocks has widened recently, investors said.

“Investors are definitely focusing on the stocks that are displaying positive earnings momentum, ” said Peel Hunt’s Williams.

“Although they are chuntering a bit about valuation, being expensive hasn’t really been a barrier to outperformance.”

Overall on the FTSE 100, analysts have persistently been revising earnings expectations lower.

(Reporting by Helen Reid; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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