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London close: Stocks slip ahead of ECB, US inflation print

By Josh White

Date: Tuesday 09 Apr 2024

London close: Stocks slip ahead of ECB, US inflation print

(Sharecast News) - London markets closed lower on Tuesday, as investors braced for a key US inflation reading as well as a policy announcement from the European Central Bank later in the week.

The FTSE 100 fell 0.11% to 7,934.79 points, while the FTSE 250 dropped 0.46% to settle at 19,763.35.

In currency markets, sterling was last up 0.13% on the dollar to trade at $1.2672, while it advanced 0.17% against the euro, changing hands at €1.1673.

"In an otherwise quiet trading session without major economic data releases investors sold stock indices as risk off sentiment dominated the agenda ahead of Wednesday's FOMC minutes and CPI print," said IG senior market analyst Axel Rudolph.

"As the gold price hit yet another record high and the silver price trades at levels last seen in June 2021 amid risk off sentiment, the oil price slipped on comments by Hamas that, although Israeli proposal for peace talks fail to meet demands, it is reviewing these."

UK retail sector sees big March upswing, small business optimism dips stateside

In economic news, the UK retail sector experienced a significant upswing in March, thanks in part to the unusually early Easter holidays, according to the British Retail Consortium-KPMG retail sales monitor.

Total retail sales jumped 3.5% year-on-year last month, marking a notable acceleration from the 1.1% annual increase recorded in February.

Growth exceeded the three-month and 12-month average growth rates, standing at 2.1% and 2.9%, respectively.

March also boasted the strongest growth rate since August last year, with sales rising at a pace surpassing inflation for the first time in over two years, according to Linda Ellett, UK head of consumer markets at KPMG's leisure and retail division.

Notably, over the three months leading to March, food sales soared by 6.8% compared to the previous year, while non-food sales experienced a dip of 1.9%, observed across both in-store and online platforms.

"High street sales growth was driven by food and drink, health and beauty and keen gardeners who headed outside to enjoy the first days of spring," Ellett commented.

"There were also some signs of improvement with more categories starting to see positive sales growth in March for the first time in months.

However, Ellett said UK retail remained a challenging environment, despite a recent improvement in macro conditions.

"As April signals big increases in the sector's cost base - through the rise in minimum wage rates and business rate hikes for the larger high street brands - retailers will be hoping that the bounce back of March sales is more than just an Easter blip.

"Economic indicators are heading in the right direction with inflationary pressures easing and interest rates having potentially peaked, however consumer confidence remains fragile, and households continue to keep a close eye on where their tight budgets are being spent."

Across the Atlantic, the US National Federation of Independent Business' small business optimism index saw a decline for the third consecutive month in March, plummeting to 88.5.

That reading marked the lowest point since December 2012, and fell well below the forecasted 90.2.

Inflation emerged as the primary concern for 25% of surveyed businesses, citing elevated input and labour costs, representing a two-point increase from February.

Additionally, the net percentage of owners anticipating real sales growth decreased by eight points from the previous month to a net reading of -18%.

"Business owners continue to manage numerous economic headwinds," said NFIB chief economist Bill Dunkelberg.

"Inflation has once again been reported as the top business problem on Main Street and the labour market has only eased slightly."

Miners in the green, defence plays under pressure

On London's equity markets, precious metals miners saw gains as gold prices surged to a fresh record high earlier in the day.

Fresnillo led the risers with a notable increase of 3.96%, followed by Centamin, up 2.81%, and Hochschild Mining, which rose 0.14%.

Similarly, mining giants Rio Tinto and Anglo American both advanced as iron ore prices saw an uptick.

Oil giant BP climbed 1.45% following its announcement that it anticipated higher upstream production in the first quarter compared to the prior three months.

That news also bolstered Diversified Energy Company, which rose 3.02%.

Safety equipment specialist Halma saw its stock price increase 2% after receiving an upgrade from Barclays.

HSBC Holdings nudged higher by 0.2% after announcing the sale of its Argentina business to Grupo Financiero Galicia for $550m, despite incurring a $1bn pre-tax loss in the process, as part of its strategic pivot towards Asia.

In another positive move, fund, corporate, and private client services group JTC rallied by 1.87% after revising its growth guidance for the next three years upward, following a successful performance in 2023 driven by record new business wins.

On the downside, Imperial Brands reversed earlier gains to slide 1.88%, despite stating that it remained on track to meet its financial guidance for the half-year and full-year.

BAE Systems fell 4.52% following a research note from Goldman Sachs expressing a cautious outlook on European defence shares, foreseeing more downside than upside risk for the sector's valuations approaching 2025.

Similarly, Chemring Group tumbled 4.99%, as sentiment turned negative on European defence stocks, influenced by a downturn in German weapons maker Rheinmetall, which fell by as much as 12% from a record high.

Reporting by Josh White for

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 7,934.79 -0.11%
FTSE 250 (MCX) 19,763.35 -0.46%
techMARK (TASX) 4,432.09 -0.20%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Fresnillo (FRES) 578.00p 3.96%
St James's Place (STJ) 441.00p 2.99%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 2,269.00p 2.44%
Croda International (CRDA) 4,700.00p 2.24%
Halma (HLMA) 2,294.00p 2.00%
WPP (WPP) 747.60p 1.87%
Anglo American (AAL) 2,191.50p 1.69%
Ocado Group (OCDO) 380.60p 1.47%
Glencore (GLEN) 473.00p 1.33%
BP (BP.) 516.60p 1.31%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

BAE Systems (BA.) 1,277.00p -4.52%
Rolls-Royce Holdings (RR.) 412.20p -3.94%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 672.80p -3.75%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 649.40p -3.19%
Beazley (BEZ) 654.50p -3.11%
CRH (CDI) (CRH) 6,600.00p -2.48%
Barclays (BARC) 188.90p -2.22%
B&M European Value Retail S.A. (DI) (BME) 510.80p -2.18%
Rightmove (RMV) 523.40p -2.13%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 1,705.00p -1.88%

FTSE 250 - Risers

W.A.G Payment Solutions (WPS) 69.80p 3.57%
Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited NPV (SONG) 72.70p 3.41%
Close Brothers Group (CBG) 454.00p 3.09%
Diversified Energy Company (DEC) 1,057.00p 3.02%
Endeavour Mining (EDV) 1,751.00p 2.82%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 124.50p 2.81%
IP Group (IPO) 47.40p 2.71%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 134.30p 2.44%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 2,318.00p 2.21%
JTC (JTC) 839.00p 1.82%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

TBC Bank Group (TBCG) 3,025.00p -5.17%
Chemring Group (CHG) 342.50p -4.99%
Lancashire Holdings Limited (LRE) 584.00p -4.11% Group (MONY) 213.80p -3.78%
QinetiQ Group (QQ.) 349.00p -3.75%
Indivior (INDV) 1,625.00p -3.56%
Me Group International (MEGP) 167.00p -3.36%
Just Group (JUST) 104.00p -2.99%
Carnival (CCL) 1,077.00p -2.80%
Breedon Group (BREE) 369.00p -2.64%


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