Belfast Telegraph

FTSE 100 ends flat as investors await vote results on US healthcare reform bill

The FTSE 100 ended Friday relatively flat as global investors awaited results from a congressional vote on Donald Trump's US healthcare reform bill.

London's blue chip index ended the day close to where it started, down 0.05% or 3.89 points to 7,336.82 points.

Across Europe, the French Cac 40 fell 0.24% and the German Dax rose 0.2%.

Global stocks were mixed as investors poised for news on a landmark bill that could determine the trajectory of Mr Trump's reform agenda.

Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist for CMC Markets, said: "The big news everyone appears to be waiting for is the US House of Representatives vote on health care reform."

He explained that the vote represents a "big test" for market assumptions. Stocks rallied in the wake of Mr Trump's election victory, in part due to anticipation that Republican control of Congress would speed up the reform process.

"A defeat could be seen as a big setback but it could also open the door for the Administration to move on to tax reform.

"Still, even if that happens, the risk future initiatives could run aground on squabbles among Republicans let alone the opposition from other parties may increase going forward."

The pound started to pull back from one month highs, dropping more than 0.1% against the US dollars to trade at 1.249.

Better-than-expected March purchasing managers index (PMI) data for the Eurozone bolstered the euro, sending the pound down 0.4% against the currency to trade at 1.155.

In oil markets, Brent crude prices were fairly subdued, up 0.2% at 50.56 US dollars per barrel (£40.51) amid thin trading, after dipping below the 50 US dollar-mark earlier in the week due to fears about rising US supplies.

In UK stocks, Pearson shares rose 8.5p to 643.5p as the company released its annual report, which outlined plans for a 20% boost to its chief executive's pay, despite having posted a £2.6 billion loss for 2016.

Shares in Royal Dutch Shell'a 'B' shares fell 18.5p to 2,180p after the company announced it had struck a deal to sell its onshore oil and gas operations in Gabon to Assala Energy for up to 1 billion US dollars (£800 million) as part of its wide-ranging divestment programme.

BT shares fell 5.75p to 325.65p, following news that Ofcom has put forward plans which would force UK landline or broadband providers to compensate consumers who face slow repairs, missed deadlines or appointments.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Smiths Group up 45p to 1,601p, British American Tobacco up 103p to 5,277p, Informa up 11.5p to 647p, and Barclays up 3.05p to 226.95p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Smurfit Kappa Group down 68p at 2,087, Ashtead Group down 40p to 1,609p, BT Group down 5.75p to 325.65p, and Taylor Wimpey Group down 3.3p to 191.5p.

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