Oil and consumer goods support FTSE 100 as May's Plan B awaited

London's FTSE 100 was 0.25 per cent higher, boosted by the weaker pound. — Reuters pic
London’s FTSE 100 was 0.25 per cent higher, boosted by the weaker pound. — Reuters pic

LONDON, Jan 21 — British blue-chip shares rose today, buoyed by oil majors and multinational consumer goods stocks, as investors readied for Prime Minister Theresa May to present a modified plan to exit the European Union.

London’s FTSE 100 was 0.2 per cent higher by 1025 GMT as a weaker pound boosted the exporter-heavy index. The mid-cap index hovered around flat.

Both outperformed European peers ahead of May’s presentation on her Brexit “Plan B”.

Oil majors were the biggest support, led by Shell with a 0.8 per cent rise, as crude prices touched their highest level of 2019 so far after data showed refinery processing in climbed to a record last year.

Companies that earn income abroad were the other main gainers with British American Tobacco, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Unilever all advancing. Some 70 per cent of income from the blue-chip index comes from overseas.

With roughly two months to go before Britain is due to leave the EU, May will address parliament at about 1530 GMT to set out how she plans to try to break the Brexit deadlock after her divorce deal suffered a historic defeat last week.

Expectations for any major changes in the agreement were low. Societe Generale economists said in a note they think Plan B will “look suspiciously like Plan A.”

May’s main opposition Labour Party is pressing for a new election – despite an unsuccessful no-confidence vote against her last week – and for her to rule out the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

Elsewhere, Asian indexes reacted calmly to data that showed the economy slowed at the end of last year though industrial output rose a surprisingly strong 5.7 percent in December.

Kingfisher shares dropped nearly 4 percent to the bottom of FTSE 100 after RBC cut its rating on the DIY retailer to “underperform”, noting that the macro and housing backdrop remains unsupportive in the UK and France.

British Airways owner IAG and easyJet rose nearly 1 per cent after a positive note on European airlines by Davy Research. Wizz Air was among top mid-cap gainers.

“We think earnings momentum in the European airlines sector will inflect positively as we exit the winter trading season,” Davy said.

There was plenty of corporate news to digest among midcaps.

William Hill fell 3 per cent after the bookmaker said it would remodel its retail business after warning that full-year profit will fall 15 per cent.

Takeaway ordering website Just Eat fell 1.2 per cent, giving up earlier gains in choppy trading, as investors digested news that its chief executive Peter Plumb was stepping down after just 16 months at the helm.

Shopping mall operator Hammerson fell more than 4 percent after JP Morgan cut its rating to “Neutral”.

An index of housebuilders also fell after data showed asking prices for British property were rising at the slowest pace since 2012 amid ongoing Brexit worries.

The losses came after they recorded their best day in roughly six months on Friday, and strong gains so far this year after a surprisingly good update from Taylor Wimpey. — Reuters

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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