FTSE 100 buckles as sterling rallies on May's Brexit progress

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A rally in sterling after Prime Minister Theresa May won Brexit assurances from Brussels pressured the UK's blue-chip stocks, offsetting gains in domestic banks and housebuilders amid relief the nation may avoid a disorderly exit from the European Union. The export-heavy FTSE 100 was down 0.2 percent at 0937 GMT, while the more domestically-focussed FTSE 250 was up 0.5 percent. Ireland's main index, seen as a gauge of Brexit jitters, rose around 1 percent. Dollar earners were among the biggest drags to the main bourse as the pound surged after May secured changes from Brussels to her deal to leave the bloc ahead of a crucial vote in Parliament around 1900 GMT. It's not certain May will win the vote, leaving much still hanging in the balance and investors still nervous about the outcome in the prolonged process.

"One feels right now that it won't be enough to persuade Brexiteer MPs to budge as the text seems well caveated in favour of the EU," said Markets.com analyst Neil Wilson.

Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell suggested that though the expectation remained that May would lose the vote, the size of the loss could now be far less than it would have been without the tweaks.

Banks with a big domestic focus and housebuilders, considered to be vulnerable to economic hits stemming from Brexit, topped the index. Data showed Britain's economy picked up in January after a weak December but growth was still stuck in low gear ahead of Brexit. Lloyds (LON:LLOY) rose 3.1 percent, state-owned lender Royal Bank of Scotland (LON:RBS) was up 3.3 percent and homebuilders Persimmon (LON:PSN) and Taylor Wimpey (LON:TW) added 3.7 percent and 2.6 percent respectively.

Mid-caps saw some news-related moves.

Among gainers, Domino's Pizza jumped 7.5 percent as results showed its UK like-for-like sales rose while Sirius Minerals added 6.5 percent after announcing an alternate financing proposal with lenders. Administration and payment service provider Equiniti slumped 14.3 percent and was on course for its worst day on record as it announced a delay in separation of its U.S. business from Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and a lower 2018 pretax profit. G4S (CO:G4S) shed 6.2 percent after the world's biggest security firm's revenue slightly lagged estimates. High street retailer Mothercare was eyeing its best day since late September after plans to sell its educational toy brand Early Learning Centre as it seeks to cut debt. The stock was last up 6 percent.

Big UK-focussed banks vs FTSE 100 since Brexit referendum - https://tmsnrt.rs/2UrUK9o

Source: Reuters

Daniel PerkinsComment