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London close: Blue chips dither but mid caps climb

By Oliver Haill

Date: Thursday 24 Jan 2019

London close: Blue chips dither but mid caps climb

(Sharecast News) - London's blue chip stocks shivered below the waterline on Thursday as there was insufficient encouragement was to be found in either of the market's ongoing concerns around Brexit and US-China trade.

As expected, the European Central Bank stood pat on monetary policy, with President Mario Draghi cautious about risks to the downside but making more confident sounds over the medium-term outlook.

The FTSE 100 closed down almost 24 points or 0.4% to 6,818.95, while more domestically focused FTSE 250 rose 0.2% to 18,627.63. Sterling was off 0.2% against the dollar at 1.3042 and up 0.1% versus the euro at 1.1498.

Having hit a 10-week high the day before, the pound stumbled as a cross-party group of MPs pushing for a second referendum admitted they did not yet have enough support, though there were comments from senior figures in the French and German governments suggesting that they would be open to extending the Brexit deadline.

Essentially there was no progress to report yet, said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG: "The European Commission has managed to tie itself in knots over a hard border, while others on the EU side are beginning to fear that an extension to Article 50, with the concomitant increase in uncertainty and delay, could be a blow to economies just as much as a no-deal Brexit," he said. "The EU and the UK are locked in a limbo of their own making, and at the moment no exit path from this purgatory seems to command popular support."

After the Chinese commerce ministry said that there would be in-depth talks between the two on economic and trade issues during Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's US visit next week, US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross later told CNBC the US was "miles and miles" from a trade deal.

On the corporate front, Vodafone was weaker a day ahead of its first-quarter trading update, after its South African business, Vodacom, reported a slowdown in service revenue.

Rentokil was also on the back foot after US peer Rollins' fourth-quarter earnings per share missed analysts' expectations.

Countryside Properties lost ground as the housebuilder and urban regenerator posted a 28% increase in first-quarter completions, mostly thanks to a boost from affordable housing.

Restaurant Group, which completed the acquisition of Wagamama in December, was also weaker as it reported a 2% dip in 2018 like-for-like sales but said it expects to deliver profit in line with market expectations.

On the upside, wealth manager St James's Place rose as it said inflows slowed in the final months of the year as it saw challenging market conditions squeeze funds under management. Still, Peel Hunt said net inflows of £2.6bn were slightly ahead of consensus, while client retention remained strong.

Equipment rental firm Ashtead gained following well-received earnings from US peer United Rentals overnight and IAG flew a little higher as it said it was no longer interested in pursuing Norwegian Air.

Premier Oil gushed higher on the back of positive results from a well appraisal offshore Mexico and outsourcer Capita was higher as it won a new three-year payments solution contract with Luxon Payments.

Games Workshop, Pennon and Stagecoach were among the companies whose stock went ex-dividend.

Just Eat rallied after an upgrade to 'overweight' at JPMorgan, but Reckitt Benckiser was knocked lower by a downgrade to 'underperform' at Jefferies and Crest Nicholson slumped after a downgrade to 'neutral' from 'buy' at Redburn. Auto Trader was also lower after a downgrade to 'add' at Peel Hunt.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,818.95 -0.35%
FTSE 250 (MCX) 18,627.63 0.24%
techMARK (TASX) 3,350.16 -0.84%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Centrica (CNA) 134.40p 2.48%
St James's Place (STJ) 962.00p 2.19%
Evraz (EVR) 465.00p 2.09%
3i Group (III) 828.80p 1.99%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,899.00p 1.55%
Schroders (SDR) 2,620.00p 1.51%
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 1,199.00p 1.40%
Whitbread (WTB) 4,960.00p 1.14%
British Land Company (BLND) 568.40p 1.03%
Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 335.20p 1.03%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Vodafone Group (VOD) 144.02p -3.50%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 5,593.00p -3.30%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,425.00p -2.30%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,254.50p -1.99%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 334.40p -1.97%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 5,480.00p -1.60%
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 2,966.00p -1.49%
Experian (EXPN) 1,922.00p -1.44%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 231.10p -1.37%
Intertek Group (ITRK) 4,938.00p -1.24%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Sanne Group (SNN) 500.00p 11.11%
Metro Bank (MTRO) 1,481.00p 10.11%
IG Group Holdings (IGG) 643.50p 4.47%
TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 161.90p 3.72%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 400.20p 3.57%
Sabre Insurance Group (SBRE) 276.00p 3.37%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 143.40p 3.17%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 1,562.00p 3.10%
Hastings Group Holdings (HSTG) 206.80p 3.08%
Contour Global (GLO) 185.90p 2.82%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Computacenter (CCC) 1,072.00p -4.80%
Vivo Energy (VVO) 130.00p -4.78%
Restaurant Group (RTN) 148.80p -4.00%
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 19.14p -3.67%
Indivior (INDV) 114.10p -3.51%
RHI Magnesita N.V. (DI) (RHIM) 4,064.00p -3.05%
BCA Marketplace (BCA) 200.00p -2.91%
Primary Health Properties (PHP) 112.00p -2.78%
Countryside Properties (CSP) 318.00p -2.75%
Sports Direct International (SPD) 271.90p -2.72%


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