London close: Stocks gains as Sterling wavers amid Brexit uncertainty
Shares reversed earlier losses to finish just a touch higher on Wednesday as the pound remained under pressure on account of the breakdown in Brexit talks, with M&A news providing a welcome distraction.
At the closing bell, the FTSE 100 was up 0.28% or 20.53 points to 7,348.03, while the pound was down 0.54% versus the dollar at 1.33713 and off by 0.20% weaker against the euro at 1.1344.
CMC Markets analyst David Madden said the drop in stock markets could be down to profit-taking into the year end.
"2017 has been a good year for global equities, and it appears that traders are winding down their positions as we approach the end of the year. The FTSE 100 is holding up better than its Continental counterparts due to the weakness in sterling."
Brexit was in focus, not unsurprisingly, as David Davis told MPs that the government has not carried out an impact assessment on the UK economy of leaving the EU.
"There's no sort of systematic impact assessment," Mr Davis told parliament’s Brexit committee, adding that a judgement had been made "on qualitative things, but not a quantitative one".
In corporate news, shopping centre owner Hammerson retreated after saying it has agreed to buy FTSE 350 rival Intu Properties in a £3.4bn all-share deal that will create a £21bn portfolio across Europe. Intu surged nearly 20%.
Medical technology business Smith & Nephew recovered from early weakness after completing the acquisition of Rotation Medical, which develops novel tissue regeneration technology for shoulder rotator cuff repair, for $125m, with a further $85m due over the next five years contingent on financial performance.
GlaxoSmithKline dipped after it released new data from a Phase III clinical study which it said supports the safety and efficacy of Shingrix in preventing shingles when given to adults 18 years and above shortly after undergoing autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplant.
Saga shares tumbled after the over-50s specialist warned that profits in the current financial year would grow more slowly than expected and that 2018 profit would be down 5% on this year.
Shaftesbury fell as it announced plans for a placing of up to 27.86m new ordinary shares at 952p each, representing around 9.98% of the company and raising gross proceeds of up to £265m to fund a number of acquisitions.
Marine engineering services group James Fisher edged up after buying Lancashire-based EDS, which provides a complete range of high voltage engineering services to the renewables industry, for up to £14.6m.
Stagecoach rallied after it kept its 2018 earnings forecast unchanged despite reporting a drop in bus revenue and passenger volumes for the first half.
EasyJet flew higher after the budget carrier reported an 8.1% jump in passenger numbers in November and announced new domestic German routes. It was also boosted by upgrades from JPMorgan and Investec.
Great Portland was up following an upgrade by Credit Suisse, along with Land Securities. Recruiters Hays and Pagegroup were hit by downgrades from Deutsche Bank.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Whitbread (WTB) 3,990.00p 7.55%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 5,028.00p 3.67%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 6,551.00p 2.06%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 222.80p 1.83%
BAE Systems (BA.) 561.00p 1.81%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 3,086.00p 1.68%
Diageo (DGE) 2,642.00p 1.36%
Kingfisher (KGF) 335.30p 1.33%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,837.00p 1.32%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,444.00p 1.26%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Hammerson (HMSO) 501.50p -6.17%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 2,427.00p -1.86%
Worldpay Group (WPG) 413.60p -1.76%
DCC (DCC) 6,885.00p -1.36%
Shire Plc (SHP) 3,564.50p -1.30%
Croda International (CRDA) 4,271.00p -1.16%
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 724.90p -0.92%
Legal & General Group (LGEN) 261.70p -0.87%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 3,769.00p -0.84%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,332.00p -0.81%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Intu Properties (INTU) 226.10p 13.62%
Victrex plc (VCT) 2,532.00p 5.90%
WH Smith (SMWH) 2,161.00p 2.32%
SIG (SHI) 171.30p 2.15%
Greggs (GRG) 1,343.00p 2.13%
Provident Financial (PFG) 807.00p 2.09%
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 24.14p 2.07%
Equiniti Group (EQN) 296.00p 2.03%
Electra Private Equity (ELTA) 961.00p 2.02%
Dixons Carphone (DC.) 164.40p 1.86%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Saga (SAGA) 142.50p -21.40%
Brown (N.) Group (BWNG) 259.00p -6.19%
Pagegroup (PAGE) 440.60p -4.80%
Hays (HAS) 175.40p -3.84%
IP Group (IPO) 144.10p -3.82%
Spire Healthcare Group (SPI) 237.00p -3.50%
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 422.00p -3.48%
Tullow Oil (TLW) 181.50p -3.25%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 3,440.00p -3.23%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 690.50p -3.02%