FTSE 100 declines on US-China trade concerns

The FTSE 100 traded lower on Friday, despite reaching a three-month high earlier in the week, as investors continued to fret about the trade dispute between the US and China.

London’s blue-chip index closed 22.40 points, or 0.32%, down at 7,071.18, while Germany’s DAX fell 1.05% and France’s CAC declined 0.48%.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “After an initially subdued start to European trading, equity markets have rolled back over into the red ahead of the weekend, bringing to an end to what initially looked like being a positive week, but which ultimately has seen the risks of a renewed escalation in the US, China trade war come back to the fore front of investor’s minds.”

He said the FTSE 100 had a “slightly better time of it this week, despite slipping back over the last two days” as on Monday the index hit a three-month high thanks to “some solid results from the likes of BP, and decent gains elsewhere in the basic resource sector”.

Meanwhile the pound, which has been a barometer of Brexit since the 2016 referendum, was fairly subdued as Prime Minister Theresa May headed to Dublin to quell concerns about the Irish backstop.

Mr Hewson said: “Markets appear to be banking on the prospect that an outbreak of sanity will break out between EU and UK politicians in the weeks and months ahead, so that a ‘no deal’ scenario is avoided.

“On the evidence of the last few days, and some of the language coming out of European capitals and London that, on the face of it, seems a big ask”.

Sterling was down 0.13% against the US dollar at 1.293 and was flat versus the euro at 1.141 at the London market close.

In corporate news, SSE cut its earnings outlook, lost thousands more customers and said it was assessing options for its retail arm following the collapse of a merger with rival npower.

The energy giant pointed to competitive pressures as it saw the number of domestic energy accounts fall 160,000 from 6.04 million at the end of September to 5.88 million in December.

SSE shares closed down 2.5p to 1,171p.

Visa increased its offer for British payments firm Earthport as its takeover tussle with rival Mastercard continues.

Visa has now tabled a 37p per share bid, valuing the cross-border payments firm at £247 million. The new figure is 12% above Mastercard’s offer and 23% higher than the original Visa bid.

Earthport shares rose 6.2p to 45p.

Nationwide Building Society reported a fall in third quarter profits as it continues to count the cost of writedowns and investment in technology.

Statutory profit in the nine months to December 31 fell more than 20% to £703 million, which it put down to £167 million of “asset write-offs and additional technology spend”.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, traded down 0.15% at 61.54 US dollars (£47.51).

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Ocado up 30.6p to 904.4p, Barratt Developments up 10p to 563p, Burberry up 23.50p to 1,869p, and GlaxoSmithKline up 18.4p to 1,564.8.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Melrose Industries down 8.2p to 156.75p, TUI down 41.20p to 913.4p, Hargreaves Lansdown down 71.5p to 1,633.5p, and Prudential down 40.5p to 1,478p.