Belfast Telegraph

Bank's growth forecast cut puts pound under pressure

The pound was under pressure after the Bank of England cut its growth forecasts for 2017 amid warnings of a sharper-than-expected squeeze on household income.

Sterling dropped nearly a cent against the US dollar and euro at one stage after the Bank nudged down its 2017 growth forecast to 1.9% and said expansion would remain "moderate" following the recent slowdown.

Among stocks, BT was one of the biggest fallers after announcing 4,000 job cuts and a near-halving in quarterly profits, with the wider FTSE 100 Index edging just 1.4 points higher to 7386.6.

There was also little support from across the Atlantic, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Wall Street 0.4% lower at the time of close in London.

The focus was on monetary policy in London after the Bank's gloomy consumer spending predictions in its quarterly inflation report.

Sterling was 0.4% lower at 1.29 US dollars and 0.4% lower at 1.19 euros.

The Bank, which held interest rates at 0.25%, sought to assure that real wages would start to rise after this year and growth also pick-up, but stressed that this was largely based on a "smooth" Brexit transition.

Oil prices were also at the fore as crude edged up another 1.4% to 50.92 US dollars a barrel, extending gains seen on Wednesday after Iraq and Algeria signalled support to extend Opec production cuts.

This helped miners dominate the FTSE 100 risers board, with advances in the sector led by Fresnillo with a 5% or 72p gain to 1503p.

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell lifted 1% or 26.5p to 2195p, but BP failed to benefit, down 4.6p to 456p.

BT tumbled 5% or 14.1p to 297.9p after it revealed the toll of an accounting scandal at the firm's Italian division, with boss Gavin Patterson stripped of his annual bonus and 4,000 jobs to be cut to make savings.

The company made the announcements alongside fourth quarter results, which saw pre-tax profit fall 48% to £440 million.

For the year to March 31, revenue was up 27% to £24 billion while pre-tax profit fell 19% to £2.3 billion.

Energy firms also remained in the red as they continue to suffer after the Conservative Party's price cap pledge, with British Gas owner Centrica off 5% or 11p to 192.2p.

Elsewhere, fashion firm SuperGroup was 5% lower in the FTSE 250 - down 82p at 1569p - as warnings of a margin hit overshadowed news of a 27.2% rise in annual sales to £750.6 million thanks to the weak pound.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Fresnillo up 72p at 1503p, Randgold Resources ahead 250p at 7150p, Standard Chartered 18.1p higher at 752.5p and Antofagasta 17p stronger at 777.5p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Hikma Pharmaceuticals down 161p to 1795p, Centrica off 11p to 192.2p, BT 14.1p lower at 297.9p and ITV 7.2p weaker at 189p.

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