UK mid-caps retreat from 10-month highs on no-deal Brexit fears

(Reuters) -British mid-caps slipped from near 10-month highs on Friday as signs of a no-deal Brexit renewed fears of further damage to an economy already slammed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The domestically focussed FTSE 250, considered a barometer for Brexit sentiment, dipped 0.1% after four straight sessions of gains. Autos, real estate and banking stocks were among the biggest decliners in morning trading.

"The optimism we saw yesterday is clearly fading a bit this morning, but we are still nowhere near the lows we touched a week ago so the sentiment has not deteriorated that badly," said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Britain and the European Union have just hours left to navigate the very narrow path to a trade deal that would prevent the most turbulent finale to the Brexit crisis in less than two weeks' time, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Friday.

"The market thinks that at the very last minute, there will be a deal," Wilson said.

The blue-chip FTSE 100 was up 0.6% as concerns of a no-deal Brexit also hit the pound. [GBP/]

The UK stock market has tracked a global rally this year following the coronavirus-led crash in March, but both the FTSE 250 and the FTSE 100 have lagged their European and U.S. peers on fears of a long road to pre-pandemic levels of economic growth. Data on Friday showed retail sales fell 3.8% on the month in November when a four-week lockdown in England closed stores selling non-essential goods to the public.

In company news, sub-prime lender Morses Club fell 1.9% after reporting a 76% plunge in first-half profit due to the pandemic, while Restaurant Group shed 3.3% after it warned of a tough first quarter.

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