Pound stronger as MPs prepare to vote on Brexit options

The pound edged higher on Wednesday as progress appeared to be made towards a decision on the Brexit outcome.

With John Bercow picking eight options for an indicative vote and more hard-liners signalling support for Theresa May’s deal, sterling was 0.21% higher on the dollar at 1.323. Versus the euro, it was up 0.26% at 1.175.

It is hoped that MPs voting on preferred Brexit outcomes will produce an option with majority support from the Commons.

Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index, said: “The pound has advanced across the early part of the day, closing in on the high from the previous session as support grew for Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

“After pro-Brexit ERG leader Jacob Rees-Mogg made an abrupt U-turn, deciding to support the PM’s Brexit deal or risk no Brexit at all, other Eurosceptic ministers have followed suit.

“Theresa May is expected to give a date for stepping down as the price for getting her twice defeated deal through Parliament.”

But there was less joy for the stock market, with a flat day on the markets as fears surrounding the health of the global economy persisted.

The FTSE 100 was down 2.1 points to 7,194.19.

The German Dax was flat, while the French Cac slipped 0.12%.

Shares in Debenhams, which have been fluctuating for weeks amid the drama surrounding its refinancing and a bid for control by Mike Ashley, ended the day higher.

Sports Direct said it was mulling a takeover offer valuing the company at £61.4 million, bumping Debenhams shares up 0.6p to 2.8p.

It was an eventful day for Mr Ashley’s business interests, as Sports Direct’s takeover offer for shopping and supplies business Findel was roundly rejected by the board.

Shares were unchanged at 160p as directors urged shareholders to oppose the £140 million approach, reiterating their previous position.

One of Mr Ashley’s other investments proved to be an own goal.

Goals Soccer Centres shares were suspended as the group uncovered at least £12 million of VAT accounting errors.

Elsewhere, Davidoff and Lambert & Butler maker Imperial Brands said it is on track to meet full-year revenue and profit targets as it continues to invest in vaping products. Shares slipped 13.5p to 2,560p.

Housebuilder Bellway posted rising half-year sales and profits, even as buyer confidence takes a knock in the face of Brexit uncertainty. The share price was 65p higher at 3,065p.

Advertising giant M&C Saatchi was down 14p to 378p after it unveiled a 16% rise in pre-tax profits to £32.2 million for 2018.

Revenue rocketed more than 20% to £1.65 billion last year at Hilton Food Group, the FTSE 250 food packaging specialist. Shares fell 26p to 914p.

The top risers on the FTSE 100 were easyJet up 34p to 1,157p, Micro Focus up 56p to 2,008p, BAE Systems up 12.4p to 466.4p and Barratt Developments up 16.2p to 610.8p.