Belfast Telegraph

FTSE 100 notches up 11th consecutive record close as sterling dips

London's top flight index notched up its 11th consecutive record close as sterling dipped on news that Prime Minister Theresa May will deliver a major Brexit speech next Tuesday.

The FTSE 100 rose by 1.88 points to 7,292.37 to edge past Wednesday's all-time closing high of 7,290.49.

The blue chip index pushed higher during the final minutes of trading on the back of a weaker pound, which tends to benefit multinational firms on the FTSE 100.

Sterling fell after a Number 10 source confirmed that Mrs May will make a major speech on Brexit on Tuesday.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis are contributing to the content of the address, which opposition parties hope will end months of secrecy over the Government's exit plans.

The pound was down 0.1% against the dollar at 1.219 following the news, after rising as much as 0.5% in early trading.

Against the euro, sterling slumped 0.7% to 1.145.

Across Europe, the French Cac 40 fell 0.5% while the German DAX fell more than 1%.

In oil markets, Brent crude prices jumped 1.5% to 56.11 US dollars per barrel (£46.00), as investors cheered signs that Opec members and other major suppliers were sticking to pledged production cuts.

Meanwhile, British retailers took the spotlight amid a wave of trading updates.

Marks & Spencer shares rose 4.5p to 344.9p as it revealed a 2.3% rise in like-for-like sales in its home and embattled clothing division in the 13 weeks to December 31 - the first growth since the first three months of 2015.

Tesco shares fell by 2.75p to 206.05p. Connor Campbell, a financial analyst at SpreadEx, explained investors were "slightly disappointed by its holiday showing", despite notching up a 1.5% rise in group third quarter sales and a 0.3% rise over the six weeks to January 7.

Shares in Primark-owner Associated British Foods fell 122p to 2,576p after warning that its operating profit margin would decline throughout the year as it grapples with the impact of the strong US dollar on input costs.

Away from the top tier index, shares in Debenhams rose 2.95p to 57.3p as a surge in its beauty and gift section helped group like-for-like sales rise 3.5% in the 18 weeks to January 7.

ASOS slumped 21p to 5,368p despite the company saying it was pencilling in a 25% to 30% rise in full-year sales after sterling's slump since the Brexit vote helped trigger a significant surge in international sales.

JD Sports Fashion soared 24.6p to 350p after reporting a near-10% rise in like-for-like sales growth in its second half so far to January 7.

Mothercare rose 6.5p to 120p after returning to UK sales growth, as strong online performance helped drive a 1% rise in like-for-like sales over the 13 weeks to January 7.

Superdry brand owner SuperGroup saw shares fall 13p to 1,705p despite interim results showing a 14.9% rise in like-for-like retail sales in the 10 weeks to January 7.

Shares in AO World plunged 22p to 162.3p after the household appliances retailer said it was "cautious" about the final quarter, "given the uncertain UK economic outlook, currency impacts on supplier pricing and the possible effect on consumer demand".

Away from retail, Barratt Development shares fell 3p to 498p. While the company forecast a 7% rise in half-year pre-tax profits to £315 million, the house builder reported a 6% drop in total completions over the period to 7,180.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Mondi up 92p to 1,742p, Smurfit Kappa Group up 78p to 2,153p, Randgold Resources up 235p to 6,795p, and Fresnillo up 41p to 1,422p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Associated British Foods down 122p to 2,576p, Dixons Carphone down 10.2p to 346.8p, Shire down 126.5p to 4,555p, and Next down 104p to 4,033p.

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