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FTSE 100 Index and pound fall despite robust economic data

The FTSE 100 Index and the pound edged down on Thursday after failing to receive a boost from robust economic data showing that Britain has yet to suffer a post-Brexit vote slowdown.

London's top flight closed down 2.94 points to 7,161.49, with consumer focused firms among the biggest fallers.

Sterling also slumped 0.48% against the US dollar at 1.257, pulling back from six week highs reached in the previous session.

The pound edged up 0.28% versus the euro to stand at 1.178.

But there was no significant positive upside for the pound off the back of data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which showed gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 0.6% in the fourth quarter of last year, in line with 0.6% in the second and third quarters.

Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com, said: "GDP figures surprised to the upside, yet the pound failed to respond positively to the news.

"The full impact of Brexit will not be felt for months - or even years - but the uncertainty will most likely prevent sterling from appreciating significantly in the interim. So get used to seeing more chop and churn in the pound for the foreseeable future."

Across Europe, Germany's Dax was up 0.3% and the Cac 40 in France slipped 0.2%.

The price of oil jumped more than 2%, as it enjoyed an uplift from the strong rally from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the United States.

Brent crude rose one dollar and 26 cents to 56.34 US dollars a barrel.

In UK stocks, Unilever was among those pulling the FTSE 100 down after revealing that currency headwinds dragged on full year earnings.

The Marmite, Dove soap and PG Tips firm said annual net profit rose 5.5% to 5.5 billion euros (£4.7 billion), but revenues dropped 1% to 52.7 billion euros (£44.7 billion), while underlying sales rose by a lower-than-expected 3.7%.

Chief executive Paul Polman also warned Britons to "get used to" prices increases following the pound's collapse as he defended price hikes.

Unilever shares were down 157.5p to 3,191p at the close.

Whitbread shares dropped 159p to 3,900p after the Costa Coffee owner revealed a slowdown at its restaurants arm.

The group reported a 1.5% fall in like-for-like sales at its restaurants, which include Beefeater and Brewer's Fayre.

Drinks giant Diageo was in the ascendancy after cheering rising profits thanks to a triple tonic from the Brexit-hit pound, robust Scotch sales and a strong US performance.

The maker of Captain Morgan rum and Johnnie Walker Scotch saw operating profits jump 28% to £2.1 billion in the six months to the end of December.

Net sales beat expectations, rising 4.4%, with the market pencilling in a rise of 3.1%. Shares were up 77p to 2,218p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Diageo up 77p to 2,218p, Ashtead Group up 55p to 1,649p, Smiths Group up 38p to 1,530p, Carnival up 107p to 4,340p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Sage Group down 34.5p to 599p, Smurfit Kappa down 107p to 2,056p, Unilever down 157.5p to 3,191p, Whitbread down 159p to 3,900p.

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