Prospect of easing trade tensions, weaker pound lift FTSE 100

May 15
23:04 2019

By Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M

(Reuters) – Hopes that the United States’ trade tensions with China and Europe will dissipate, combined with a weaker pound, lifted Britain’s main index higher on Wednesday, as a slew of earnings reports also drove share moves.

The FTSE 100 advanced 0.8% and outperformed its European peers. The FTSE 250 was roughly flat.

Markets were initially upbeat after U.S. President Donald Trump said talks between Beijing and Washington had not collapsed, terming the Sino-U.S. conflict as “a little squabble”.

Trump administration officials later said the President was expected to delay a decision on imposing tariffs on imported cars and parts by up to six months, further bolstering investor sentiment.

“This may be a case of delaying the inevitable, but given that the U.S. is already at odds with China and Iran, the reasoning appears to be not to be fighting too many battles at once,” CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said.

Asia-focused HSBC provided the biggest boost to the main index, while exporter stocks also supported it, benefiting from a drop in sterling as Brexit jitters resurfaced.

Sterling fell to a three-month low, with Prime Minister Theresa May expected to once again fail in getting her thrice-rejected Brexit deal approved.

On an earnings-heavy day, Compass Group was among the top blue-chip gainers. The world’s biggest catering company rose 2.9% after raising its forecast for annual organic revenue growth.

But home improvement retailer Kingfisher declined 3.6% after lower first-quarter sales in France, its second-biggest market.

SSE and National Grid fell 2.5% and 0.9% respectively. Britain’s opposition Labour Party published plans to re-nationalise the country’s energy networks, prompting utilities to warn of damage to investment, high taxpayer costs and a slower transition to green energy.

On the mid-cap index, Metro Bank, which has seen volatile trading in recent months after disclosing an accounting error, gained 15% with details of fresh funding from new and existing investors awaited.

Provident Financial skidded 6.5%. The company has been subject to a hostile takeover by smaller rival Non-Standard Finance, which said after markets shut that it would go ahead with its 1.3 billion pound takeover for the larger subprime lender.

(Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi and Muvija M, additional reporting by Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams)

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