London open: Stocks edge up but gains limited amid Brexit concerns
London stocks edged higher in early trade on Thursday, with sentiment underpinned by a rebound in US tech shares overnight, but gains were limited as investors kept an eye on Brexit developments.
At 0845 GMT, the FTSE 100 was up 0.2% to 7,359.86, while the pound was down 0.1% against the dollar and the euro at 1.3379 and 1.1345, respectively.
Brexit was firmly front-of-mind again a day after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier told member states that the British government has just 48 hours to agree a text on a potential deal or it will be told that negotiations cannot proceed to the next stage.
Barnier told EU ambassadors that Downing Street had told him a potential solution was being worked out that could satisfy Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party and the Republic of Ireland. However, that has yet to be signed off and Ireland's premier Leo Varadkar indicated that the Irish border issue would not be solved in time for next week’s crucial summit.
Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell said: “It hasn’t been a great week for the government, with Brexit bungles galore - take your pick from David Davis’ admission that there hasn’t been any sector-by-sector impact assessment, or the DUP Irish border blockade, or Philip Hammond stating the Cabinet is yet to discuss the ‘end state position’ for the UK after it leaves the EU - undermining the pound.”
In corporate news, Sky was the standout gainer following reports that US Comcast is interested in taking full control of the broadcaster.
Building materials group CRH was on the front foot after deciding not to bid for South African rival PPC.
Ladbrokes Coral surged on news is it in advanced talks with GVC Holdings about a possible £3.9bn takeover of the bookmaker. GVC was also sharply higher.
St. Modwen Properties was trading higher after it said sales volumes for the year should be in line with expectations, growing by around 43% over the previous year to 694.
Legal & General rose after saying it expected a record year for profits and earnings with growth accelerating across its businesses.
Coca-Cola HBC edged up after it appointed Zoran Bogdanovic as its new chief executive officer with immediate effect, succeeding Dimitris Lois who passed away in October.
William Hill rallied after it settled a dispute with NYX, a Toronto-listed gaming software company in which the bookmaker owns a stake.
Packaging and paper group DS Smith advanced after saying sales increased strongly in the first half of the year but profits grew more slowly due to higher paper prices.
On the downside, heavily-weighted miners lost ground as copper and iron prices declined, with Rio, Anglo, BHP Billiton and Glencore all weaker.
Cobham was on the back foot after a downgrade to ‘reduce’ at Kepler Cheuvreux, while Babcock was down as its stock went ex-dividend.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Sky (SKY) 1,011.00p 2.33%
Pearson (PSON) 732.00p 1.53%
Smurfit Kappa Group (SKG) 2,360.00p 1.29%
CRH (CRH) 2,612.00p 1.28%
Ashtead Group (AHT) 1,996.00p 1.27%
Prudential (PRU) 1,828.50p 0.99%
Sage Group (SGE) 767.50p 0.92%
Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 433.88p 0.90%
Centrica (CNA) 148.30p 0.88%
Convatec Group (CTEC) 209.10p 0.77%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Next (NXT) 4,335.00p -1.97%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,445.00p -1.53%
Kingfisher (KGF) 331.00p -1.28%
Anglo American (AAL) 1,336.50p -1.18%
Babcock International Group (BAB) 671.00p -1.03%
BHP Billiton (BLT) 1,324.00p -0.97%
Marks & Spencer Group (MKS) 316.40p -0.82%
Morrison (Wm) Supermarkets (MRW) 221.00p -0.81%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,254.00p -0.71%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,900.00p -0.68%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Ladbrokes Coral Group (LCL) 173.30p 27.71%
GVC Holdings (GVC) 979.50p 7.76%
Aveva Group (AVV) 2,709.00p 4.47%
William Hill (WMH) 302.20p 3.71%
Sophos Group (SOPH) 544.00p 3.52%
Stagecoach Group (SGC) 183.50p 3.09%
Ferrexpo (FXPO) 249.50p 2.89%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 554.00p 2.78%
esure Group (ESUR) 263.10p 2.77%
Ultra Electronics Holdings (ULE) 1,293.00p 1.89%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Cobham (COB) 123.10p -2.76%
Britvic (BVIC) 798.50p -2.62%
Investec (INVP) 484.60p -2.61%
Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC) 572.50p -2.14%
Pets at Home Group (PETS) 166.76p -2.14%
Vedanta Resources (VED) 641.00p -2.06%
Evraz (EVR) 290.50p -2.02%
Halfords Group (HFD) 333.70p -1.97%
PayPoint (PAY) 900.00p -1.69%
FDM Group (Holdings) (FDM) 885.00p -1.45%