London pre-open: Stocks to edge lower after retail sales, ahead of PMIs
London stocks were set for a slightly weaker open on Friday as investors mulled the latest retail sales data and results from NatWest.
The FTSE 100 was called to open 13 points lower at 6,604.
Figures released earlier by the Office for National Statistics showed UK retail sales slumped in January as tighter nationwide coronavirus restrictions hammered department and clothing stores.
Sales volumes fell 8.2% compared with December, the biggest fall since April, and far more than the 2.5% forecast by economists.
The ONS said the figures reflected the impact of the third national lockdown imposed at the start of the month. Sales were down 5.5% year on year.
Investors will also be looking out for the release of Markit’s services and manufacturing PMIs for February at 0930 GMT.
In corporate news, NatWest said it was pulling out of the Republic of Ireland as the bank reported a smaller than expected annual loss.
The company swung to a £351m operating pre-tax loss for the year to the end of December from a £4.2bn profit a year earlier as it set aside £3.2bn for bad debts. Analysts had on average expected a £418m loss.
In the fourth quarter NatWest’s profit fell to £64m from £1.5bn, beating a consensus forecast for a £1m loss.
NatWest said it agreed to sell €4bn of commercial loans to Allied Irish banks as a first step towards withdrawing from the Irish market. Its business in Northern Ireland will not be affected.