London close: Stocks beat slight retreat after hitting new festive high
London stocks ended the final session before Christmas in festive red amid thin volumes, although there was some Yuletide cheer to be had as the top-flight index enjoyed a fresh high earlier in the day.
The FTSE 100 finished its half-day session down 0.2% at 7,592.66 after touching a new record high of 7,611.49 earlier, besting the previous day's record closing high of 7,603.98.
London's benchmark index was outperforming its peers in Europe, in particular the Spanish IBEX 35, which was off 1.2% at the time of the UK close after Catalonia’s pro-independence parties held on to their absolute majority in snap regional elections. This was a blow to the Spanish government, which had called the polls in the hope of heading off the secessionist push.
The three separatist parties won a total of 70 seats in the 135-seat regional parliament even though the centre-right, pro-unionist Citizens party was the single biggest winner, with 36 seats.
IG analyst Chris Beauchamp said: “The FTSE 100 is finishing in suitably festive fashion, having carved out a new record high this morning."
On Spain he added: "2017 saw a number of political risk events, but none have been quite as interesting or as durable as the Catalonian issue. This, perhaps more than Brexit, threatens to be the problem to watch in 2018."
Earlier, UK national growth was confirmed as remaining at 0.4% in the third quarter compared to the second, though a large upward revision in the impact of exports meant the contribution from consumers was smaller than originally thought.
The Office of National Statistics' third revision of the data saw annual growth in gross domestic product revised up to 1.7% from 1.5%.
For the first time, ONS used value added tax receipts from hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses to help calculate GDP more accurately.
Growth in household consumption was revised down to 0.5% from 0.6%, following growth of 0.2% in the second quarter, as there was a large upward revision to export volumes growth to 0.8%.
The UK's current account deficit narrowed to £22.8bn from £25.8bn, meaning it was reduced to 4.5% as a share of GDP from 5.1%.
ONS also revealed that UK total business investment rose 0.5% in the third quarter compared to the second, more than the 0.2% that was expected again.
An improvement index of services was not as slight as expected, rising 0.2% in October compared to the preceding month, up from 0.1% in September that the market had forecast would be repeated. On a three-month basis the index climbed just 0.3%, as expected, after the previous 0.4% gain.
On the corporate front, Santa provided a little M&A action to keep things interesting on an otherwise quiet day, with Ladbrokes Coral agreeing to be taken over by GVC Holdings for a sum of £3.2bn that could rise up to £4bn. GVC said it sees at least £100m of efficiencies from the deal that should lead to a double-digit boost to earnings. GVC was trading a little lower while Ladbrokes edged up. Ladbrokes was up by the close but GVC ended in the red.
Elsewhere, BHP Billiton slipped as it agreed to provide $181m in financial support to the Renova Foundation and Samarco until the end of June next year, following the dam failure in 2015.
Paper and packaging group Mondi fell after announcing the acquisition of Finnish pulp and paper mill operator Powerflute for €365m from Nordic Packaging and Container Holdings.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Next (NXT) 4,579.00p 3.71%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 6,833.00p 1.68%
Severn Trent (SVT) 2,142.00p 1.52%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,445.00p 1.26%
Whitbread (WTB) 3,948.00p 1.23%
DCC (DCC) 7,440.00p 1.22%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,293.00p 1.09%
GKN (GKN) 314.30p 0.90%
Sage Group (SGE) 795.50p 0.89%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,819.00p 0.82%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,944.00p -1.67%
G4S (GFS) 260.10p -1.59%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,302.00p -1.36%
Mediclinic International (MDC) 623.00p -1.19%
Barclays (BARC) 202.15p -1.17%
Schroders (SDR) 3,489.00p -1.08%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 512.50p -1.06%
Shire Plc (SHP) 3,880.50p -0.91%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 4,970.00p -0.86%
International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 646.00p -0.85%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Fidessa Group (FDSA) 2,587.00p 4.99%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,143.00p 4.10%
RPC Group (RPC) 891.00p 3.60%
Barr (A.G.) (BAG) 647.00p 3.52%
Sanne Group (SNN) 796.50p 3.38%
Ibstock (IBST) 263.90p 3.11%
AA (AA.) 173.00p 2.98%
Pets at Home Group (PETS) 176.30p 2.56%
Spire Healthcare Group (SPI) 246.10p 2.29%
McCarthy & Stone (MCS) 157.00p 2.21%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
GVC Holdings (GVC) 912.50p -2.30%
Daejan Holdings (DJAN) 5,880.00p -2.08%
Alfa Financial Software Holdings (ALFA) 525.50p -1.96%
CYBG (CYBG) 333.70p -1.94%
John Laing Group (JLG) 290.10p -1.90%
TI Fluid Systems (TIFS) 244.30p -1.85%
Safestore Holdings (SAFE) 482.00p -1.75%
Euromoney Institutional Investor (ERM) 1,251.00p -1.50%
RHI Magnesita N.V. (DI) (RHIM) 3,921.00p -1.48%
Inmarsat (ISAT) 479.40p -1.24%