Pound hits seven-week lows as Hammond fails to provide Brexit details in Budget


The pound floundered at seven-week lows while the FTSE 100 dipped into the red as the Spring Budget failed to excite investors hoping for more Brexit details. 

Sterling fell nearly 0.4% against the US dollar to trade near 1.214, its lowest level since mid-January.

It was also hovering at seven-week lows against the euro, down around 0.2% at 1.151.

The FTSE 100, meanwhile, ended the day down 4.38 points at 7334.61. 

It comes after Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled his Spring Budget, outlining plans to raise taxes for the self-employed and lowering the tax-free dividend allowance by 60%. 

But what surprised investors most was how little was said about the Government's Brexit plans. 

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx, said: "The biggest challenge to the UK economy for the next half a decade (at the very least) barely got a mention this Wednesday,

"Hammond choosing not to expand upon his previously announced aim for a £60 billion rainy day fund by 2020.

"The lack of Brexity news is likely why the reaction from the market has been so muted."

Across Europe, the French Cac 40 rose 0.1% while the German Dax was flat. 

In oil markets, Brent crude prices dropped 1.3% to around 54.89 US dollars per barrel (£45.16) after data from the International Energy Agency showed that US inventories rose last week, raising fears over the global supply glut. 

In UK stocks, Foxtons shares dropped 2.25p to 96p after the London-focused estate agent reported a 54% drop in annual profits from £41 million to £18.8 million, following a "marked step down" in sales activity in the second half following the EU referendum.

The group was also hit by a Government stamp duty hike which came into force in April last year, helping to drive revenue down 11.4% to £132.7 million.

Barclays rose 5.25p to 232.3p. The bank said it had begun redundancy talks with 180 staff after announcing its mortgage centre in Cardiff will close next year.

Legal & General shares fell 5.4p to 248.8p despite the insurer saying annual pre-tax profits jumped 17% to £1.6 billion in 2016, helped by surging annuity sales and a raft of new business for its retirement arm.

G4S shares surged 21.4p to 288.8p after the security and outsourcing giant reported a 13.9% hike in underlying pre-tax profits to £352 million for 2016 on revenues 6.3% higher.

Shares in Admiral rose 30p to 1,829p despite the car insurer reporting that annual profits tumbled by a quarter, blaming the Government's "eccentric" decision to change the way personal injury claims are calculated.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Worldpay up 13.2p to 285.7p, 3I Group up 18p to 723.5p, Barclays up 5.25p to 232.3p, and Paddy Power Betfair up 150p to 8,420p. 

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were Randgold Resources down 165p to 7,000p, Legal & General Group down 5.4p to 248.8p, Anglo American down 22.5p to 1,204.5p, and Hikma Pharmaceuticals down 37p to 2,078p.