U.K. stocks pull back from run of 2016 highs

Stocks in the U.K. dropped on Wednesday, taking a breather after hitting their best level this year, with investors waiting for cues in lackluster trading.

The FTSE 100 shed 0.3% at 6,830.52, with all sectors moving lower. The index on Tuesday rose 0.6% at 6,851.30, its best close since June 2015, to mark a fourth straight win, according to FactSet data.

Smith & Nephew PLC shares were at the bottom of the benchmark, losing 1.8% after the medical equipment maker’s rating was downgraded to equal weight from overweight at Barclays.

But shares of broadcaster ITV PLC were higher by 0.3% after Entertainment One Ltd., the Canadian film and television producer behind the Peppa Pig cartoon franchise, rejected ITV’s $1.3 billion buyout offer.

For the market overall, an “empty economic calendar leaves [the FTSE] lacking any real direction, meaning the index has once again become susceptible to the movements in the oil sector,” said Connor Campbell, financial analyst at Spreadex, in a note.

Energy sector: Oil major Royal Dutch Shell PLC fell 0.9%, and BP PLC was off 0.5% as oil prices traded mixed. On Tuesday, they pulled back from a two-week high, as investors weighed concerns about a global supply glut against the prospects for an industry agreement to curb output.

“[O]ne of the main pieces of data this Wednesday is the latest crude oil inventories figure from the U.S., meaning there could still be some more movement in the sector before the day is over,” said Connor.

The Energy Information Agency will release its weekly supply data later Wednesday. The American Petroleum Institute late Tuesday said there was a 2-million-barrel increase in crude supplies.

Movers: On the FTSE 250 midcap index, G4S PLC rallied 14% after the security services provider projected demand for its services will grow by 4% or 6% a year over the medium term.

Meanwhile, William Hill PLC fell 1.1%. The bookmaker rejected a proposal valued at around £3.16 billion ($4.18 billion) from Rank Group PLC and 888 Holdings PLC for a potential combination of the three companies.

Sterling: The pound was buying $1.3044, up from $1.2978 late Tuesday in New York.

Sterling fell below $1.30 on Tuesday, as Bank of England policy maker Ian McCafferty, in an op-ed for the Times of London newspaper, said the benchmark rate “can be cut further, closer to zero, and quantitative easing can be stepped up.”

Source: MarketWatch

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