London close: Stocks stay red as sentiment takes a dive
London stocks staged a partial recovery during the afternoon, but remained in the red at the close on Friday, as weak Chinese data and Middle East tensions weighed on sentiment.
The benchmark FTSE 100 ended the day down 0.31% at 7,345.78, and the FTSE 250 was off 0.28% at 19,118.34.
In currencies, sterling was last off 0.58% against the dollar at $1.2601 and 0.05% lower versus the euro at €1.1233.
The mood took a hit after the US blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Thursday.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said overnight that Iran had threatened earlier to restrain oil transport in the Strait of Hormuz.
Pompeo gave no evidence and did not take any questions from reporters, but Trump administration officials said that at least one of the ships was attacked by mines.
They showed a picture of a tanker with a hole caused by a mine that had exploded and an undetonated mine inside.
“It is the latest spat between two nations already at odds over the ending of waivers for sanctions on countries importing oil from Iran back in April, and gives Trump another geopolitical stand-off to address at the month’s G20 meeting in Osaka,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell earlier.
Meanwhile, uninspiring Chinese data also weighed. Industrial production growth slowed to 5% in May from 5.4% in April, missing expectations for a 5.5% increase and marking the worst level since February 2002.
Fixed asset investment rose 5.6% in May, down from 6.1% growth in April and slowing to its worst level in seven months.
The figures also mixed expectations for an unchanged reading.
Retail sales were the only bright spot, with growth of 8.6% in May compared to 7.2% the month before, which was ahead of analysts' expectations of 8.1% growth.
“Another disappointing batch of activity data in May reinforces our view that growth will probably weaken a bit more this quarter,” noted Capital Economics.
“With consumer and business sentiment likely to sour further as the trade war escalates, additional policy easing will be needed to shore up growth.”
In equity markets, exhibitions and information company Ascential was in the red by 2.79% despite saying that trading was in line with full year expectations with its product design, marketing and sales divisions all reporting organic first half revenue growth.
Construction, services and property group Kier tumbled 35.5% following a report that the company is preparing to sell its housebuilding unit amid increasing evidence of financial pressures on the group.
According to The Times, Kier has sounded out advisers about the potential to sell the division, which is understood to be valued at between £100m and £150m.
Amigo Holdings retreated 0.72% as it said chief executive Glen Crawford has left due to ill health, leaving the guarantor loans company without a boss until Crawford's replacement gets regulatory approval.
On the upside, precious metals miner Fresnillo rose 3.2% as gold rallied to a 14-month high on its safe-haven appeal.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Fresnillo (FRES) 838.00p 3.15%
National Grid (NG.) 833.40p 1.82%
Relx plc (REL) 1,908.21p 1.47%
Compass Group (CPG) 1,910.50p 1.46%
Evraz (EVR) 696.00p 1.02%
Flutter Entertainment (FLTR) 5,888.00p 0.99%
Rentokil Initial (RTO) 388.00p 0.91%
Experian (EXPN) 2,404.00p 0.84%
Just Eat (JE.) 626.20p 0.84%
London Stock Exchange Group (LSE) 5,446.00p 0.67%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
ITV (ITV) 105.25p -4.32%
Auto Trader Group (AUTO) 561.40p -3.24%
Smith (DS) (SMDS) 350.10p -2.97%
Melrose Industries (MRO) 169.55p -2.78%
NMC Health (NMC) 2,305.00p -2.25%
Tesco (TSCO) 224.40p -2.22%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 3,530.00p -2.08%
Rightmove (RMV) 573.10p -2.05%
Imperial Brands (IMB) 1,976.60p -1.76%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 155.60p -1.64%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Vivo Energy (VVO) 136.60p 6.72%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 109.35p 5.09%
Rank Group (RNK) 158.80p 3.52%
PZ Cussons (PZC) 209.50p 3.46%
Jupiter Fund Management (JUP) 386.10p 2.96%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 180.20p 2.85%
CLS Holdings (CLI) 219.00p 2.82%
Royal Mail (RMG) 199.95p 2.25%
Merlin Entertainments (MERL) 377.80p 2.11%
Hill & Smith Holdings (HILS) 1,215.00p 2.10%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Kier Group (KIE) 130.80p -35.50%
Saga (SAGA) 36.28p -8.67%
TalkTalk Telecom Group (TALK) 109.00p -4.72%
Weir Group (WEIR) 1,473.50p -3.88%
Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings (AML) 1,020.60p -3.72%
Just Group (JUST) 55.00p -3.25%
Premier Oil (PMO) 70.36p -3.03%
Ascential (ASCL) 369.40p -2.79%
Spirent Communications (SPT) 151.20p -2.70%
Provident Financial (PFG) 445.00p -2.63%