London close: Stocks mixed as investors monitor trade headlines
London stocks finished on a mixed note on Monday, but the upside for the top flight index was capped by a weak mining sector, as investors digested mixed reports on the state of US-China trade talks at the weekend and waited on important UK and Chinese data due later in the week.
At the weekend, US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, expressed hope that the two countries were "close to the final round” of negotiations, adding that the deal would go "way beyond" previous agreements.
But a source close to the talks told Reuters there was little chance of a deal that changed the way China's economy worked or made Xi "look weak", although it was "going to be better than what we’ve had".
To take note of, other reports indicated that Washington too was keen to avoid losing face.
The FTSE 100 was 0.19 points lower at 7,436.87, while the pound was up 0.2% against the US dollar to 1.3038 and 0.23% stronger versus the euro at 1.1595, underpinned by comments from Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said on a visit to Japan that talks with Labour - which are set to continue over the Easter recess - had been "more constructive than people thought".
However, the FTSE 250 managed to add 0.48% to 19,807.09.
Investors were eyeing the release of UK inflation data and first-quarter Chinese GDP, both due on Wednesday, while key UK jobs data is out on Tuesday.
In addition, first-quarter revenues at US banking giants Goldman Sachs and Citigroup came in on the light side and acted as a drag on investor sentiment.
"Weaker Goldman Sachs figures and a warning from the US Treasury Secretary about the likelihood of a new deal between the US and China have helped equities to move lower," said IG's Chris Beauchamp.
"The back-and-forth of China negotiations leaves markets vulnerable to comments about progress or the lack thereof, but who wouldn’t be surprised if sufficient progress is made this week so that the President can issue a triumphant tweet, get US indices back to record highs and send America off to the Easter holidays with a spring in its step?"
Elsewhere, the latest survey from Rightmove showed that house prices rose 1.1% on the month in April compared to a 0.4% increase in March. This marked the biggest month-on-month rise for over a year and the largest at this time of year since 2016.
On the year, house prices were down 0.1% versus a 0.8% decline the month before.
"The uncertain political backdrop continues to hold back the market, with new seller asking prices, the number of properties coming to market and the number of sales agreed all below this time last year," Rightmove said.
"But despite these headline falls, market activity remains resilient with would-be buyers and sellers still having housing needs to satisfy, especially in the family home sector."
Meanwhile, figures from the British Retail Consortium and Springboard showed that footfall increased 1.4% in March compared to the previous year when it fell by 6%, boosted by milder weather.
High Street footfall was up 2.5 versus an 8.6% drop in March 2018, and retail park footfall was 1.5% higher versus a 1.8% decline in March.
Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle said appearances were deceptive. As while the year on year rise in footfall might appear to signify a reverse in trend from the previous two years, when footfall dropped in all but two of the past 22 months, "it is simply not the case" and the rise "should be regarded as an exceptional circumstance" relating to the dramatic slump in March last year.
In equity markets, B&Q owner Kingfisher was a high riser, with analysts pointing to the forecast for warm weather over the Bank Holiday weekend, which would be expected to get people out working on their gardens and doing DIY.
WPP was the standout gainer following reports that the advertising giant has attracted at least five of the world's biggest private equity firms into an auction for a majority stake in its data analytics unit Kantar. According to Reuters, US private equity funds Bain Capital and Apollo will compete with European funds CVC Capital Partners, Permira and Apax.
WPP was also likely to be finding support from a rise in first-quarter net profit at French peer Publicis and news that it has agreed to buy US-based marketing and data group Epsilon in a $4.4bn deal.
Office space provider IWG, formerly Regus, rallied as it continued its shift towards a franchise model with a £320m deal to sell 100% of its Japanese office space to Tokyo-listed TKP Corporation, with which it has agreed a master franchise agreement.
Mediterranean-focused Energean Oil and Gas saw its shares jump after saying that its Karish North exploration well had made a "significant"” gas discovery.
Construction group Kier was in the green as it said new chief executive Andrew Davies will lead a strategic review to improve cash generation and reduce leverage.
On the downside, mining stocks retreated, with Rio Tinto, BHP, Anglo American and Antofagasta all in the red. "Copper had a strong session on Friday and now we are seeing a bit of profit taking, and that is driving sentiment in the mining sector this morning," said CMC Markets analyst David Madden.
Rio was also in the news as it said it would invest an extra $302m (£231m) to develop its US Resolution copper project as it sought to capitalise on the growing green energy market.
Acacia Mining lost its shine as it said first-quarter gold production fell 13% from the previous year due to lower output at the North Mara and Buzwagi mines.
In broker note action, outsourcer Compass was hit by a downgrade to 'equal-weight' at Barclays and CYBG was knocked lower by a downgrade to 'hold' at Investec. British Gas owner Centrica was cut to 'neutral' at JPMorgan.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Paddy Power Betfair (PPB) 6,348.00p 3.05%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,176.50p 2.22%
Prudential (PRU) 1,702.00p 1.79%
Spirax-Sarco Engineering (SPX) 8,005.00p 1.65%
WPP (WPP) 885.20p 1.51%
Halma (HLMA) 1,741.50p 1.48%
Coca-Cola HBC AG (CDI) (CCH) 2,657.00p 1.41%
Vodafone Group (VOD) 142.50p 1.39%
Ferguson (FERG) 5,400.00p 1.31%
Hiscox Limited (DI) (HSX) 1,629.00p 1.31%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Compass Group (CPG) 1,753.50p -2.20%
Anglo American (AAL) 2,167.50p -2.01%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,002.50p -1.96%
BHP Group (BHP) 1,902.80p -1.66%
Experian (EXPN) 2,157.00p -1.60%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 4,702.50p -1.45%
Fresnillo (FRES) 784.40p -1.41%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 5,823.00p -1.39%
Scottish Mortgage Inv Trust (SMT) 523.00p -0.95%
BAE Systems (BA.) 504.00p -0.94%
FTSE 250 - Risers
IWG (IWG) 334.00p 21.15%
Indivior (INDV) 41.97p 19.13%
Energean Oil & Gas (ENOG) 847.00p 8.46%
Kier Group (KIE) 375.20p 7.76%
Metro Bank (MTRO) 840.00p 6.87%
Charter Court Financial Services Group (CCFS) 368.50p 3.80%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 511.00p 3.23%
Entertainment One Limited (ETO) 466.80p 3.09%
Restaurant Group (RTN) 125.70p 3.03%
Just Group (JUST) 66.85p 2.85%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Acacia Mining (ACA) 167.60p -12.71%
Funding Circle Holdings (FCH) 316.00p -4.24%
Kaz Minerals (KAZ) 712.20p -3.55%
Saga (SAGA) 55.65p -2.53%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 191.80p -2.14%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 85.56p -2.04%
Ultra Electronics Holdings (ULE) 1,526.00p -1.86%
Safestore Holdings (SAFE) 645.00p -1.83%
William Hill (WMH) 165.25p -1.72%
Worldwide Healthcare Trust (WWH) 2,675.00p -1.65%