London midday: Stocks maintain losses as pound drops on industrial output data
Stocks in London were still in the red by midday on Friday following a selloff in the US and Asia, as investors digested a mixed set of UK data releases.
The FTSE 100 was down 0.8% at 7,110.22, while the pound turned lower after figures showed a widening of the trade deficit and a sharp drop in industrial production in December. Sterling was off 0.7% versus the dollar at 1.3815 and 0.6% lower against the euro at 1.1291, having risen sharply in the previous session following unexpectedly hawkish comments from the Bank of England, which signalled the need for interest rates to rise sooner and more than previously anticipated.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed industrial production sank at the end of last year, although this was due almost entirely to the closure of the North Sea Forties oil pipeline.
Total output shrank by 1.3% on the month in December, above the 0.9% drop analysts had pencilled in, as the pipeline shutdown led to a 19.1% plunge in mining and quarrying production.
"The pipeline fully reopened in late December, so mining and quarrying output will reverse December’s drop in January," said Pantheon Macroeconomics economist Samuel Tombs, noting that if excluding mining and quarrying, IP increased by a healthy 0.4% month-to-month in December, reflecting a 0.3% rise in manufacturing output, a 0.9% increase in output in the energy supply sector and a 0.6% rise in water supply.
Trade balance figures were nothing to write home about either, as the trade deficit came in at £4.9bn in December, which was much worse than consensus expectations of £2.4bn. Meanwhile, November's data was revised to show a deficit of £3.7bn, up from £2.8bn.
Manufacturing figures came in as expected, with output up 0.3% on the month in December, up from 0.2% in November.
Construction figures were a bright spot, however, with output up 1.6% on the month in December, comfortably beating expectations for a 0.1% rise.
Market participants were also keeping an eye on events across the pond, as US lawmakers voted to pass a two-year budget that will boost spending by $300bn. The US government officially shut down for the second time this year earlier as Congress had failed to meet the midnight on Thursday deadline to vote on the new budget. However, with the measures now passed by both the Senate and the House, the shutdown could end before the working day begins.
In corporate news, Shaftesbury ticked lower, giving back earlier gains even as the central London-focused property developer said it has seen continuing high footfall at its retail properties and robust trading in the period from 1 October 2017 to 8 February 2018.
Drax was among several energy companies in the red after the Yorkshire power plant group secured agreements worth a combined £10m to provide capacity from two existing coal units.
On the upside, British Land rose after announcing the acquisition of the Woolwich Estate, covering 4.9 acres in south east London, for a headline price £103m - representing a net initial yield of 4.1%.
Plastics manufacturer Victrex edged up after reporting a very strong start to the year, with industrial sales led by consumer electronics to offset a slightly weaker performance from medical customers.
In terms of sectors, heavily-weighted miners were doing well, with Anglo American, Rio Tinto and Antofagasta all higher as base metals prices advanced.
Outside of the FTSE 350, deal news helped to inject a little life into proceedings, as Trinity Mirror rallied after agreeing to buy the publishing assets of Northern & Shell, which include the Daily Express, the Daily Star and OK magazine.
In broker note action, Big Yellow got a boost as Bank of America Merrill Lynch upped it to 'buy' 'neutral' and Relx was up after Deutsche Bank upgraded it to 'buy' from 'hold'.
FTSE 100 - Risers
Anglo American (AAL) 1,615.60p 1.36%
Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,243.50p 1.26%
Taylor Wimpey (TW.) 184.05p 1.15%
Rio Tinto (RIO) 3,799.00p 1.12%
Fresnillo (FRES) 1,245.50p 1.10%
Relx plc (REL) 1,489.00p 1.02%
Antofagasta (ANTO) 884.80p 0.91%
Berkeley Group Holdings (The) (BKG) 3,754.00p 0.78%
Associated British Foods (ABF) 2,614.00p 0.62%
Halma (HLMA) 1,182.00p 0.60%
FTSE 100 - Fallers
Johnson Matthey (JMAT) 3,096.63p -4.75%
3i Group (III) 880.80p -3.53%
Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) 274.70p -3.14%
Pearson (PSON) 663.60p -2.56%
Mondi (MNDI) 1,766.00p -2.38%
Prudential (PRU) 1,750.50p -2.26%
Micro Focus International (MCRO) 2,007.40p -2.03%
Old Mutual (OML) 225.60p -1.78%
easyJet (EZJ) 1,579.50p -1.77%
United Utilities Group (UU.) 698.80p -1.77%
FTSE 250 - Risers
Stobart Group Ltd. (STOB) 258.58p 2.81%
Centamin (DI) (CEY) 156.50p 2.52%
NewRiver REIT (NRR) 288.50p 2.12%
Sanne Group (SNN) 633.00p 1.93%
Ultra Electronics Holdings (ULE) 1,374.00p 1.85%
Bovis Homes Group (BVS) 1,042.50p 1.81%
Hochschild Mining (HOC) 212.00p 1.78%
Card Factory (CARD) 193.49p 1.62%
Travis Perkins (TPK) 1,433.50p 1.56%
IP Group (IPO) 120.40p 1.52%
FTSE 250 - Fallers
Hikma Pharmaceuticals (HIK) 850.80p -4.55%
Sophos Group (SOPH) 491.00p -4.29%
AA (AA.) 120.25p -3.88%
OneSavings Bank (OSB) 386.80p -3.64%
Ashmore Group (ASHM) 407.60p -3.60%
Man Group (EMG) 183.35p -3.40%
Saga (SAGA) 111.80p -3.29%
Bodycote (BOY) 879.00p -3.25%
Elementis (ELM) 267.60p -2.90%
RHI Magnesita N.V. (DI) (RHIM) 4,230.00p -2.87%