The FTSE 100 slumped and the pound pushed to two-month highs as investors cheered reports that the UK has agreed to pay as much as £50 billion to settle its EU divorce bill, in a move that could open the door for trade talks.
The UK currency was up around 0.7% at 1.344 against the US dollar, hitting its highest level since September 28. Versus the euro, sterling climbed 0.5% to 1.132.
The pound’s ascent weighed on the FTSE 100, which tumbled 0.9% or 67.09 points to 7,393.56 points, as many of its listed multinational firms tend to benefit when the UK currency is weaker.
It fell behind its European peers, with the French Cac 40 rising 0.14% and the German Dax ending the day nearly flat.
Investors were taking reports of the higher Brexit bill offer as a sign there could finally be a breakthrough in talks between British and EU officials.
David Madden, a market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “The FTSE 100 is being held back by the rally in the pound on the back of the announcement the UK Government has agreed in principle to make a payment to the EU.
“The so-called divorce bill is believed to be in the region of £50 billion and this is seen as a boost to British political prospects.”
The FTSE 250, which hosts a higher proportion of domestically focused shares, ended the day higher by 0.17%.
In oil markets, Brent crude prices were down over 0.4% at $63.04 per barrel as investors fretted over whether Opec and other major producers such as Russia would end up striking a deal that would extend production cuts and help battle bloated supplies.
It comes ahead of the Opec meeting in Vienna on Thursday.
In UK stocks, London Stock Exchange Group shares ended the day higher by 5p at 3,805p.
The group confirmed that chief executive Xavier Rolet was stepping down with immediate effect amid a row over succession plans for the top job, but will walk away with a potential £13 million golden goodbye.
The move follows a furious spat between the LSE Group and activist investor The Children’s Investment Fund Management (TCI), which accused the group’s chairman of pushing out Mr Rolet after he announced last month he would leave by the end of 2018.
Lloyds Banking Group shares rose 2.27p to 67.1p amid news that it will close 49 branches and axe almost 100 jobs partly in response to changing customer behaviour.
ZPG – the company behind online property portal Zoopla – slumped 23.3p to 321.7p despite reporting a 24% jump in full-year revenues to £244.5 million and confirming the acquisition of a Dutch analytics firm for 30 million euros (£26.5 million).
Shares in soft drink giant Britvic jumped 52.5p to 811p as investors focused on higher full-year revenues which jumped 8% to £1.54 billion.
Cineworld plunged 137.5p to 557p as it confirmed it was in advanced discussions with US cinema chain Regal over a $3.6 billion (£2.7 billion) takeover.
The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Next up 189p to 4,503p, Kingfisher up 13.5p at 336.5p, Royal Bank of Scotland Group up 10.4p at 281.6p and Marks and Spencer Group up 11.4p at 312.4p.
The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Randgold Resources down 440p at 6,915p, Sage Group down 31.5p at 779p, Fresnillo down 49p at 1,303p, and Micro Focus International down 89p at 2,498p.