U.K. stocks inched higher Wednesday, backed by gains in British Airways parent and other travel shares after Tuesday’s deadly terrorist attacks in Brussels.
The FTSE 100 UKX, -0.20% rose 0.1% to 6,197.77, but the gain was limited as commodity and financial shares slipped.
Travel-sector shares were gaining back some of the ground lost after explosions at the Brussels Airport and a subway station in central Brussels on Tuesday left 31 dead and 270 people wounded.
Shares of InterContinental Hotels Group PLC IHG, +0.72% IHG, +0.03% picked up 0.8%, low-cost carrier easyJet PLC EZJ, +0.73% climbed 0.7% and British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group PLC IAG, +0.64% ICAGY, -0.01% rose 7%.
Cruise operator Carnival PLC CCL, +2.00% CCL, -0.72% popped up 1.9%. Tour organizers Thomas Cook Group PLC TCG, +2.99% and TUI AG TUI, +2.21% advanced 2.9% and 1.3%, respectively.
While travel stocks on Tuesday finished lower, the FTSE 100 index itself managed to close up by 0.1%.
“[S]ecurity threats are likely to remain high on the list of geopolitical concerns surrounding markets, with airline and travel stocks inevitably remaining in the spotlight,” said Ian Williams, economist and strategist at Peel Hunt, in a note.
A hunt was under way Wednesday for a man suspected as one of Islamic State bombers in Tuesday’s attack. Meanwhile, two brothers were identified in a Belgian media reports as the bombers behind the airport attack.
European stocks SXXP, -0.16% were higher Wednesday after ending off session lows Tuesday.
Movers: The FTSE 100’s worst performance Wednesday came from William Hill PLC WMH, -11.12% as shares tumbled 12%. The company warned of lower revenue from its online business, and lower profit by £20 million to £25 million ($28 million to $35 million).
Kingfisher PLC KGF, +5.36% shares climbed 4.2%, topping the index after the home-improvement retailer said it’s still on track with its overhaul plan. Fiscal 2016 pretax profit fell 21%, the owner of B&Q and Screwfix stores said.
Sky PLC SKY, +2.17% shares gained 2.2% following a ratings upgrade to outperform from neutral of the broadcaster at Exane BNP Paribas.
Sterling: The pound GBPUSD, -0.5630% was down 0.6% at $1.4130, extending sharp losses made Tuesday. Sterling was hit hard after the Brussels attack, with analysts noting the bombings could reinforce concerns about immigration into the U.K. In turn, British voters on June 23 could support the country leaving membership in the European Union. The issue has been dubbed “Brexit.”
Sterling action Wednesday in the options market has been “significant,” as “three-month volatility has jumped 2.6 percentage points to 14.5%. It appears to be the largest single-day increase in sterling volatility since 2001. The level is the highest since 2010,” said Marc Chandler, global head of Brown Brothers Harriman, in a note.
“The key take away from the development in the options market is that anxiety toward Brexit is rising,” and investors are seeking protection, Chandler said. “It warns that sterling’s upside correction seen this month through the end of last week is over. New losses should be anticipated.”