London close: Stocks dip despite more upbeat data around the globe
London stocks were a touch weaker on Thursday, with better-than-expected retail sales figures failing to provide a boost as traders were in holiday mode ahead of the long Easter weekend.
By the end of trading, the FTSE 100 was down 0.15% at 7,459.88, while the pound was off 0.39% against the US dollar at 1.29967 and 0.17% firmer versus the euro at 1.1566.
The dip in UK equities was despite a much better-than-expected reading on US retail sales for March that reportedly saw Goldman Sachs bump up its forecast for GDP growth in the first quarter from 2.1% to 2.4%.
Survey readings on the French and German economies in April published on Thursday also beat economists' forecasts.
IHS Markit's so-called composite output index for German factory and services sector activity printed at 52.1 in April versus 51.4 for the month before (consensus: 51.7).
Similarly, upbeat data from the Office for National Statistics went virtually unnoticed. It showed UK retail sales unexpectedly rose in March, boosted by mild weather and despite the looming Brexit deadline.
Retail sales were up 1.1% on the month compared to a revised 0.6% increase the month before and expectations of a 0.3% decline.
On the year, meanwhile, retail sales surged 6.7% in March following a 4% rise the month before. This was ahead of expectations for a 4.6% jump and marked the highest since October 2016. The ONS said milder weather this year helped to boost sales in comparison to last year, when they were dented by the impact of the ‘Beast from the East’.
Economists at ING said it was worth treating these latest figures with a touch of caution.
"Easter falls later this year, which might typically be associated with lower sales during March relative to other years. Similar data from the British Retail Consortium also suggested that spending was more muted during March, aside from some increased purchases related to Mother’s Day. The latest surge in retail spending also comes at a time where consumer confidence is around the lowest it has been since 2013," said analyst James Smith.
Meanwhile, Ranko Berich, head of market analysis at Monex Europe, said: "The lack of market reaction to the news highlights the extent to which Brexit is still the only story in town for sterling."
In equity markets, BAE Systems was the top faller as it went ex-dividend along with Reckitt Benckiser, Aggreko, Bodycote, Capital & Counties, Centamin, Drax, Hastings, Hunting, Inmarsat, John Laing, KAZ Minerals, National Express, NewRiver REIT, Polypipe, Rathbone Brothers and Vesuvius.
On the upside, Unilever gained as it reported stronger-than-expected growth for the first quarter of the year, driven by emerging markets and with an encouraging balance between increases in volume and price.
Equipment rental firm Ashtead rallied following well-received results from US peer United Rentals, whose first-quarter earnings per share came in around 10% ahead of consensus overnight.
Rentokil was in the green as it reported a 4% rise in first-quarter organic revenue, driven by its pest control business and acquisitions.
Moneysupermarket racked up strong gains as it posted a 19% jump in first-quarter revenue thanks to a solid performance from its home services business, which saw revenues surge 70%.
Cybersecurity firm Avast was higher as it said first-quarter revenue rose 6.1% and reaffirmed its full-year outlook.
Industrial software maker Aveva rose as it reported low double-digit revenue growth for the full year as the final quarter continued the positive performance seen in the first nine months of the year.
Funding Circle gained as it posted a record level of loans under management during the first quarter.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Unilever (ULVR) 4,503.50p 2.87%
CRH (CRH) 2,635.00p 2.26%
Experian (EXPN) 2,203.00p 1.85%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 375.15p 1.85%
ITV (ITV) 139.75p 1.81%
Burberry Group (BRBY) 2,016.00p 1.77%
Fresnillo (FRES) 778.40p 1.75%
Bunzl (BNZL) 2,352.00p 1.64%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 196.60p 1.60%
WPP (WPP) 934.00p 1.28%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
BAE Systems (BA.) 491.90p -3.78%
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 1,657.50p -2.73%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,444.50p -1.90%
AstraZeneca (AZN) 5,813.00p -1.67%
Carnival (CCL) 4,036.00p -1.54%
British American Tobacco (BATS) 3,057.00p -1.39%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,518.00p -1.25%
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) 1,524.40p -1.06%
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY) 66.03p -1.01%
Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 5,821.00p -0.95%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Avast (AVST) 300.60p 5.77%
Funding Circle Holdings (FCH) 326.00p 4.99%
Plus500 Ltd (DI) (PLUS) 527.80p 4.39%
Moneysupermarket.com Group (MONY) 363.30p 4.28%
Mediclinic International (MDC) 340.60p 4.00%
Intu Properties (INTU) 101.70p 3.78%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 198.80p 3.11%
Restaurant Group (RTN) 132.70p 3.11%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 964.10p 3.09%
Aveva Group (AVV) 3,342.00p 3.02%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Petrofac Ltd. (PFC) 467.40p -10.77%
Hays (HAS) 149.60p -4.82%
Drax Group (DRX) 350.60p -4.62%
Hastings Group Holdings (HSTG) 220.80p -4.49%
Sirius Minerals (SXX) 20.54p -4.11%
Galliford Try (GFRD) 531.00p -4.07%
Wood Group (John) (WG.) 505.00p -3.66%
Metro Bank (MTRO) 808.00p -3.54%
Bodycote (BOY) 850.50p -3.40%
NewRiver REIT (NRR) 228.00p -2.98%