London close: Stocks little changed as May sets out 'Plan B'

By Alexander Bueso

Date: Monday 21 Jan 2019

London close: Stocks little changed as May sets out 'Plan B'

(Sharecast News) - London stocks were little changed on Monday as investors awaited Theresa May's presentation of her 'Plan B' on Brexit to the Commons and digested Chinese growth figures.
By the end of trading, the FTSE 100 was up 0.03% to 6,970.59, while the pound had gained 0.28% versus the US dollar to 1.29003 and was 0.15% higher against the euro at 1.1347.

In the event, the 'Plan B' presented by the Prime Minister to Parliament was quite similar to her previous proposal.

For Andrew Wishart at Capital Economics, the small tweaks made by May were unlikely to win her the support she needed.

Nevertheless, votes by MPs on the different amendments they propose may "provide a clearer guide to how Brexit will pan out, and what the resulting near-term impact on the economy would be", he said.

Although cautious about making any predictions, Wishart put the odds of a softer Brexit (Norway-plus or a permanent customs union) at 70%, but in any case he believed that "there is scope for a rebound in GDP growth and the pound if a resolution is reached."

Away from Brexit, investors were mulling over the latest figures out of China, which showed that GDP slowed to 6.4% in the fourth quarter, representing the slowest rate of growth since the financial crisis, but in line with expectations. Meanwhile, full year growth was above expectations at 6.6%, which was the softest since 1990.

Still, Chinese retail sales and industrial production figures came in better than expected.

Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG, said: "Promises of a stimulus package for the Chinese economy have certainly helped ease the fears over a continued slowdown, yet the fact is that a trade breakthrough with the US is required to fully appease markets. Despite the headline GDP reading providing precious little reason for optimism, the improved industrial production and retail sales figures for December go some way to showing that there is some form of improvement within the widespread decline in Chinese economic data."

On the corporate front, airlines fared well throughout most of the session, with British Airways owner IAG and Wizz Air higher as oil prices flatlined and as HSBC upped its stance on Ryanair to 'buy' from 'reduce'.

Aerospace engineer Meggitt rose as it had signed a $750m (£582.6m) 10-year deal with US engine maker Pratt & Whitney to continue the supply of advanced composite components for the F119 and F135 engines which power the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

Superdry was top of the FTSE 250 following a Sunday Times report that former boss Julian Dunkerton will call an extraordinary general meeting of the company's shareholders in the next four weeks as he looks to return to the group.

On the downside, housebuilders Taylor Wimpey and Berkeley retreated as the latest survey from Rightmove showed the UK property market suffered its slowest start to the year this January since 2012.

House prices rose by 0.4% in the month this month, which was the lowest monthly rise this time of year since January 2012, but better than the 1.5% drop seen in December. On the year, house prices were also up 0.4%, slowing down from the 0.7% increase since in December.

The survey found that it has been a patchy but active start to the year, with more northerly regions faring better in terms of pricing power and willingness to move than those farther south.

B&Q owner Kingfisher was the biggest faller following a downgrade to 'underperform' at RBC Capital Markets.

William Hill slumped as it warned full-year 2018 adjusted operating profit was expected to be about 15% lower than the year before.

GlaxoSmithKline ticked lower after saying that said chairman Sir Philip Hampton was stepping down and the board had started the process to find a successor.

Just Eat recovered from a sharp fall early on as it said full year results were going to be ahead of revenue and profit targets but announced that chief executive Peter Plumb is leaving the online takeaway food marketplace little over a year after he started. Chief customer officer Peter Duffy will step in as interim CEO with immediate effect and the search for a permanent replacement has begun.

Hammerson, Capital & Regional and Shaftesbury were all in the red after downgrades to 'neutral' by JPMorgan. The sector was also knocked lower by a report over the weekend suggesting that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors could slash the value of UK shopping centres and high street stores after property agents were told to reflect the changes sweeping the industry.

According to the Sunday Times, RICS has told valuers to be "aware of the potential for significant changes in value" in retail properties.

Elsewhere, Hiscox was cut to 'underperform' at KBW, Rentokil was cut to 'neutral' at Goldman and Sophos was downgraded to 'hold' at Liberum.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,970.59 0.03%
FTSE 250 (MCX) 18,762.83 -0.01%
techMARK (TASX) 3,397.62 0.10%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Melrose Industries (MRO) 172.75p 1.89%
Hargreaves Lansdown (HL.) 1,862.00p 1.50%
DCC (DCC) 6,515.00p 1.40%
Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 6,505.00p 1.25%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,792.00p 1.23%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 5,638.00p 1.22%
Bunzl (BNZL) 2,447.00p 1.20%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 4,507.00p 1.19%
BAE Systems (BA.) 515.00p 0.98%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,565.00p 0.92%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Kingfisher (KGF) 217.70p -4.01%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 830.60p -2.83%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,164.00p -2.43%
Centrica (CNA) 134.15p -2.19%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 347.90p -2.11%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 814.40p -1.97%
Sainsbury (J) (SBRY) 273.00p -1.76%
Tesco (TSCO) 220.00p -1.69%
British Land Company (BLND) 562.00p -1.61%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 241.60p -1.59%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Homeserve (HSV) 939.50p 3.81%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 3,122.00p 3.38%
Superdry (SDRY) 524.00p 3.15%
RHI Magnesita N.V. (DI) (RHIM) 4,190.00p 2.95%
Clarkson (CKN) 2,430.00p 2.75%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 326.70p 2.74%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 387.40p 2.70%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,451.00p 2.54%
EI Group (EIG) 207.50p 2.47%
Cineworld Group (CINE) 260.00p 2.36%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Indivior (INDV) 120.00p -4.42%
Vivo Energy (VVO) 133.02p -3.41%
Hammerson (HMSO) 345.70p -3.41%
Rank Group (RNK) 148.20p -3.14%
Drax Group (DRX) 401.00p -3.09%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 534.40p -3.08%
Acacia Mining (ACA) 175.65p -2.63%
NewRiver REIT (NRR) 206.96p -2.38%
Synthomer (SYNT) 375.00p -2.34%
Intu Properties (INTU) 110.00p -2.18%


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