London midday: Stocks edge up as pound slumps on Barnier comments
London stocks edged higher by midday on Thursday as the pound lost ground following comments from the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier.
The FTSE 100 was up 0.4% to 7,560.87 as the pound fell 0.4% against the dollar at 1.3177 and was 0.3% weaker versus the euro at 1.1121 after Barnier said talks with Britain have reached a "deadlock" over the divorce bill but "decisive progress" could be made by Christmas.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Brexit Secretary David Davis, Barnier said there had been no agreement over the amount of the financial settlement Britain would pay as a divorce bill but admitted some progress had been made on citizens' rights and Ireland's common travel area.
He said Theresa May's speech in Florence gave much needed "momentum" to the negotiations but that while she said the UK would honour commitments it had agreed as member, this week the UK had still been reticent to spell out exactly the level of financial commitment.
As such he felt not enough progress had been made to enable him to propose to the European Council next week that discussions should start on the future relationship between Britain and the EU.
Although pound reacted poorly to Barnier finding the lack of progress "very disturbing", Connor Campbell at Spreadex said: "These comments overshadowed Barnier’s claim that ‘decisive progress is within our grasp over the next two months’, as well as the news that an agreement had been reached over Ireland."
Market participants were also mulling over a survey from the Bank of England, which revealed that UK consumer credit growth is slowing and lenders expect the biggest decline in consumer credit availability since the financial crisis in the last three months of the year.
The Bank's quarterly credit conditions survey found lenders reined in the availability of unsecured credit in August and, looking to the fourth quarter of 2017, the net balance of lenders expect the availability of unsecured lending to households to worsen fell to -28.6 from -16.2, the sharpest fall since the end of 2008.
While the consumer credit market remains swollen compared to recent years, annual growth eased below 10% in July and August for the first time since spring last year, falling to 9/8% in July and August, the Bank said.
On the corporate front, broadcaster Sky was higher after it posted a jump in earnings and revenue in the first quarter, while Just Eat surged after being given provisional approval by UK competition authorities to complete its acquisition of rival online food ordering website Hungryhouse.
Broker notes were providing a lot of the action, with Burberry the standout gainer after Mirabaud Securities upgraded the stock to 'buy' and Deutsche Bank lifted its price target, while budget carrier easyJet flew higher after Canaccord upped the stock to 'hold'.
Spire Healthcare was on the front foot after being upgraded to 'buy' at Investec, but shares in the AA were hit by a downgrade to 'hold' at Berenberg.
FTSE 250 recruiter Hays advanced after it posted another record quarterly net fee performance, while GVC Holdings gained after saying daily net gaming revenue was up 10% in the third quarter.
Booker nudged up after posting an 8.6% increase in first-half pre-tax profit and WH Smith ticked up as it said full-year profit and revenue rose thanks to a solid performance from its travel business.
HSBC was in focus as it announced that John Flint, the current head of the retail banking and wealth management division, will succeed Stuart Gulliver as chief executive with effect from 21 February 2018. The shares were down, but had been before the announcement as the stock went ex-dividend.
Clothing retailer N Brown was in the red despite reporting a 5.6% increase in half-year revenue, while Tullow Oil gushed lower after announcing the acquisition of 90% stakes in four onshore blocks in Côte d'Ivoire.
Acacia Mining was weaker after it revealed that gold production in the third quarter slowed.
Tesco, Close Brothers, TP ICAP and Saga were all lower as their stock went ex-dividend.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Burberry Group (BRBY) 1,898.00p 2.76%
St James's Place (STJ) 1,160.00p 2.65%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,323.00p 2.64%
Sky (SKY) 933.00p 2.13%
SSE (SSE) 1,396.00p 1.60%
TUI AG Reg Shs (DI) (TUI) 1,338.00p 1.44%
3i Group (III) 958.50p 1.43%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,014.00p 1.30%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 7,128.00p 1.28%
Schroders (SDR) 3,478.00p 1.25%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
HSBC Holdings (HSBA) 750.10p -1.09%
Standard Chartered (STAN) 756.90p -1.06%
Carnival (CCL) 5,000.00p -0.79%
Tesco (TSCO) 186.20p -0.53%
Centrica (CNA) 174.70p -0.51%
Merlin Entertainments (MERL) 461.30p -0.50%
WPP (WPP) 1,366.00p -0.44%
CRH (CRH) 2,753.00p -0.43%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 3,819.00p -0.42%
Worldpay Group (WPG) 411.40p -0.41%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Just Eat (JE.) 737.00p 4.84%
Aldermore Group (ALD) 255.90p 4.07%
Spire Healthcare Group (SPI) 228.00p 2.93%
GVC Holdings (GVC) 891.00p 2.71%
Virgin Money Holdings (UK) (VM.) 277.00p 2.59%
Wizz Air Holdings (WIZZ) 3,245.00p 2.56%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 571.00p 2.33%
Ladbrokes Coral Group (LCL) 130.60p 2.19%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 350.00p 2.19%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 839.50p 2.13%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Brown (N.) Group (BWNG) 337.30p -3.63%
Close Brothers Group (CBG) 1,438.00p -2.24%
FirstGroup (FGP) 110.30p -2.04%
Clarkson (CKN) 2,866.00p -2.02%
CLS Holdings (CLI) 214.00p -2.01%
Provident Financial (PFG) 786.00p -1.81%
AA (AA.) 155.10p -1.77%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 722.00p -1.57%
Telecom Plus (TEP) 1,190.00p -1.49%
Sanne Group (SNN) 812.00p -1.46%