Belfast Telegraph

FTSE 100 Index pauses for breath after Macron-inspired rise

London's top-flight index paused for breath after a heady rise in the previous session when European markets rocketed in response to the French presidential election race.

The FTSE 100 Index rose 10.96 to 7,275.64, after adding more than £30 billion to blue chip stocks on Monday when investors priced in the prospect of Emmanuel Macron becoming the next president of France.

Heavyweight financial firms continued to dine off French election cheer, with Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays rising 4.1p to 253.4p and 3.6p to 222.8p respectively.

However, Costa Coffee owner Whitbread plunged more than 7% after warning that it was "cautious" about the future amid forecasts of a tougher year ahead.

Shares in the group were down 307p to 4,000p despite booking a 6.2% rise in underlying pre-tax profits in the 52 weeks to March 2 to £565.2 million.

It comes as its Premier Inn and restaurants business chalked up a 7.4% rise in full-year underlying operating profit to £468 million, while the Costa unit saw a 5.3% rise to £158 million.

Across Europe, Germany's Dax and the Cac 40 in France both rose by 0.1%, while in the US the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite broke above the 6,000 mark for the first time.

On the currency markets, the pound pushed higher against the US dollar after an update on the UK's public finances showed Government borrowing had reached its lowest level in nearly a decade.

Sterling rose 0.4% versus the greenback at 1.28 US dollars, as the latest figures also revealed that Chancellor Philip Hammond had marginally overshot his independent target for shoring up the public finances.

The Office for National Statistics said public sector net borrowing, excluding banks, dropped by £20 billion to £52 billion for the financial year to date - April 2016 to March 2017 - in contrast to the same period the year before.

It was the lowest year-to-date borrowing figure since the financial year ending March 2008, the statistics agency said.

On the oil markets, the price of Brent crude edged 0.2% lower at 51.52 US dollars a barrel after fresh doubts emerged over Opec's ability to curb the global supply glut.

In UK stocks, challenger bank Virgin Money jumped 2.2p to 325.3p despite seeing a 4.8% drop in gross mortgage lending to £2 billion in the first quarter.

The lender also pledged to keep a close eye on rising consumer debt levels as credit card balances jumped 8% in the first quarter.

Credit card debt rose to £2.65 billion in the three months to March 31, but the bank said it was seeing "stable customer behaviour and arrears levels" despite the jump.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Hikma Pharmaceuticals up 63p to 1,905p, Glencore up 6.7p to 312.2p, Convatec up 5.4p to 305.9p, Royal Bank of Scotland up 4.1p to 253.4p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 Index were Whitbread down 307p to 4,000p, Kingfisher down 10.8p to 326.4p, Randgold Resources down 185p to 6,785p, Associated British Foods down 64p to 2,815p.