Belfast Telegraph

London market crawls back into the black

The London market crawled back into the black after the resurgent pound dragged on blue-chip stocks in previous sessions following the announcement of a snap general election.

The FTSE 100 Index closed up 4.18 points to 7,118.54, with financial stocks providing a leg up on the back of sterling's improved performance.

Royal Bank of Scotland was among the biggest risers, lifting 3.8p to 239.5p, while Lloyds Banking Group and Prudential climbed 0.4p to 64.1p and 25p to 1,646p respectively.

On the currency markets, the pound was up 0.3% against the US dollar at 1.282, while sterling was marginally down versus the euro at 1.192.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said : "The US dollar has slipped back after the rebound seen yesterday which suggests that the greenback remains under pressure from reduced expectations about the future path of US rate rises.

"The euro has managed to find some support on the expectation that Emmanuel Macron will make it into the final round of the French presidential elections, when voting concludes this weekend, moving to its highest level against the US dollar this month."

Across Europe, the French Cac 40 and German Dax rose around 1.5% and 0.1%, respectively.

In oil markets, Brent crude prices were up 0.1% at around 53.11 US dollars per barrel (£41.41), buoyed in part by suggestions from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia that Opec members would probably extend production cuts into the second half of the year.

In UK stocks, Sky shares inched higher by 2p to 984p despite reporting an 11% drop in operating profit to £1.01 billion in the nine months to March 31, weighed down by a "weaker UK advertising market" and a £494 million bill linked to Premier League costs.

Unilever rose 12.5p to 3,950p after reporting a 6.1% jump in first quarter revenues to 13.3 billion euro (£11.1 billion). That accounted for currency fluctuations, which provided a 2.4% boost.

Marks & Spencer shares slumped 4.7p to 353.7p amid news that the retail giant is planning to close six stores following a review of its store estate.

It said the proposal, which is part of a five-year programme, is aimed at better meeting the "changing needs of customers".

Away from the top tier, shares in Go Ahead Group - which runs Southern Railway through its Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) businesses, jumped 53p to 1,782p despite reporting a 5% drop in passenger revenue on the service in the nine months to April 1. However, the firm said its service has now "stabilised".

Debenhams tumbled 2.8p to 52.5p after the new chief executive Sergio Bucher unveiled plans to close 11 warehouses and put up to 10 stores under review, as part of a major overhaul.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were St James's Place up 20p to 1,078p, GKN up 6.3p at 350.9p, Burberry Group up 26p at 1,592p, and Royal Bank of Scotland Group up 3.8p at 239.5p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Intu Properties down 12p at 274.8p, Ashtead Group down 44p at 1,580p, Barratt Developments down 12p at 576p, and Kingfisher down 6.5p at 329.2p.

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