Belfast Telegraph

Rocky session for London market before closing up 3.86 points

The London market endured a rocky session on Friday, pushing to record heights before trimming gains in response to a lacklustre economic update from the United States.

The FTSE 100 Index achieved a mid-session record of 7,598.99, before closing up 3.86 points to equal the all-time high of 7,547.63 recorded on May 26.

The London market had been enjoying another strong session at the pound's expense after the latest General Election poll from Ipsos Mori put the Conservatives just five points ahead of Labour.

Blue-chip companies, which report in US dollars or euros, get a lift on the FTSE 100 Index when the pound struggles because their earnings benefit from a more favourable currency translation.

However, the top flight pared gains when an employment update from across the Atlantic revealed the jobless rate had fallen to its lowest level since 2001 at 4.3%.

Commodity stocks were also holding back the FTSE 100 Index after the price of oil crashed below the 50 US dollar a barrel mark.

Traders priced in the likelihood of US crude drilling picking up pace after President Donald Trump turned his back on the 2015 global agreement on climate change.

Brent crude fell 2.1% to 49.56 US dollars a barrel, with Royal Dutch Shell B and Antofagasta dropping 22.5p to 2,135.5p and 12.5p to 805p respectively.

However, Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, questioned whether it was simply President Trump's rejection of the climate change pact that was hitting the oil price.

He said: "The rally that preceded the extension of the Opec cuts in to next year seems such a long time ago now and while some have attributed the acceleration of the decline in the oil price to the US withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, it rather overlooks the fact that this can't happen before 2019.

"This week's decline in oil prices aren't happening in isolation, and in a worrying divergence from the rise in equity markets, we've also seen sharp declines in iron ore, nickel and copper prices over the past few days."

Across Europe, Germany's Dax soared by 1.2% and the Cac 40 in France rose by 0.3%.

On the currency markets, the pound continued to suffer from election jitters as the election polls suggested the Tories' lead over Labour was wobbling.

Sterling was down 0.5% against the euro at 1.143, with the UK currency brushing aside a strong update on the performance of the UK construction industry.

Output in the sector made a surprise rebound last month, as a jump in housebuilding drove overall activity to a 17-month high.

The closely-watched Markit/CIPS UK Construction purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 56.0 in May, up from 53.1 in April and above economists' expectations of 52.6.

In UK stocks, precious metal stocks were in the ascendancy after the price of gold rose on the back of the weaker US dollar.

Randgold Resources climbed 4%, or 295p to 7,655p, and Fresnillo rose 60p to 1,651p.

Old Mutual was among the biggest risers after the firm's wealth management arm snapped up the financial adviser network Caerus Capital Group.

The move will see Intrinsic - part of Old Mutual Wealth - take control of more than 300 advisers in charge of £4 billion of assets under advice, subject to regulatory approval.

Shares were up 6.3p to 197p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 Index were Randgold Resources up 295p to 7,655p, Fresnillo up 60p to 1,651p, Convatec up 11.8p to 342.6p, Old Mutual up 6.3p to 197p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 Index were Taylor Wimpey down 5.2p to 184.8p, Marks and Spencer down 7.6p to 367.7p, United Utilities down 20p to 1,002p, Intu Properties down 5.3p to 271.9.