U.K.’s FTSE 100, pound inch higher after retail sales outstrip expectations

U.K. stocks edged up on Thursday, with retail shares strengthening after monthly retail sales leapt in July, even after the Brexit vote.

The FTSE 100 index gained 0.3% to 6,874.51, with only a handful of stocks trading in the red.

The benchmark on Wednesday ended 0.5% lower, as sharp losses for miners on the back of weaker metals prices offset better-than-expected labor-market data.

Retail sales were the main focus on the data front on Thursday, capping off a week of the first economic data to show the real effect on the U.K. economy from the referendum.

The Office for National Statistics said sales rose 1.4%, well above a 0.2% estimated rise in a FactSet poll of analysts.

Retail stocks were pulled higher after the report, with department store operator Marks & Spencer PLC up 1.3% and apparel and accessories retailer Next PLC gaining 0.8%. Electronics seller Dixons Carphone PLC sprang up 2% and Kingfisher PLC advanced 1.8%. Kingfisher early Thursday posted an 8.4% rise in group sales for the second quarter and said it hasn’t seen any clear impact of Brexit on demand in its business divisions.

The pound shot higher after the retail sales report, rising to $1.3165 from $1.3075 ahead of the data. Sterling bought $1.3066 on Thursday. Against the euro, sterling rose to €1.1625 from around €1.1544 before the figures came out. That compared with €1.1552 on Wednesday.

The dollar had already been driving lower against other currencies after minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve’s July meeting released late Wednesday showed the central bank officials remain split on whether an interest rate hike is needed soon.

Movers and shakers: The lower dollar helped miners lead the FTSE higher, as shares tracked metals prices higher. Anglo American PLC advanced 2.8%, Antofagasta PLC gained 3.6% and BHP Billiton PLC climbed 2.5%.

Fresnillo PLC picked up 2.1% after the precious metals miner said the first phase of its San Julian mine has been completed.

Source: MarketWatch