FTSE 100 closes higher as pound falters on Brexit woe

The FTSE 100 was riding high on Thursday as the pound was dealt further Brexit blows in a bruising day for the British currency.

London’s top flight closed up 64.3 points, or 0.88%, at 7,355.31, boosted by mining, energy, consumer and healthcare stocks.

A higher start on Wall Street also helped the index, as well as retailer Next, which posted full-year results.

The high street chain booked a 0.4% dip in pre-tax profits to £722.9 million for the year to the end of January, and forecast a further decline over the year ahead amid “challenging” trading.

Shop sales tumbled by 7.9% but total brand sales lifted 2.6% thanks to a 14.7% jump in online trade.

Shares closed up 134p at 5,316p.

On the FTSE 250, Ted Baker shares nosedived after the fashion chain’s profits slumped as the firm grapples with a scandal that pushed its founder to resign, as well as a competitive retail environment.

Profit before tax was down 26.1% to £50.9 million in the 52 weeks to January 26.

Group revenue was 4.4% higher at £617.4 million, thanks to growing sales across the UK, Europe and North America.

The results come at the end of a challenging year for the company, which has taken its toll on the balance sheet.

Shares were down 109p at 1,601p at the close.

Engineering firm Renishaw’s shares also plunged after it lowered profit expectations due to dwindling demand in Asia.

The company, which employs 2,800 people in the UK, said adjusted profit before tax for the full year is now expected to be between £117 million and £135 million, compared to a previously guided range of £140 million to £160 million.

Demand from Asian customers for the company’s encoders – measurement devices – has dwindled in recent months.

The company’s stock closed down 470p at 3,730p.

In currency, sterling took a body blow as Brexit again came to the fore.

The Bank of England and French President Emmanuel Macron added to already negative sentiment following Theresa May’s much criticised address to the nation on Wednesday evening.

The British currency was trading down 1.3% against the US dollar at 1.302 at the London market close.

Versus the euro, the pound shed 0.7% to hit 1.147.

Connor Campbell, financial analyst at SpreadEx, said: “The pound lurched lower on Thursday after more combative comments from France’s Emmanuel Macron.

“After a Bank of England statement that highlighted the ‘possibility of further cliff-edge uncertainties’ that could have a ‘significant effect’ on the UK’s business spending, sterling was dealt another blow as Macron claimed that a third failure for Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement next week would mean ‘we will be going to no deal’.”

Mrs May appeared to alienate MPs during her unscheduled speech, making it more likely that her deal will be crushed for a third time.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX was down 0.5% and France’s CAC 40 was up 0.1%.

A barrel of Brent crude was trading 0.8% higher at 67.7 US dollars.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Hikma up 114.5p at 1,762p, Fresnillo up 31.6p at 832.2p, Reckitt Benckiser up 243p at 6,538p and ABF up 67p at 2,376p.

The biggest fallers on the FTSE 100 were RBS down 16.1p at 248.9p, Phoenix Group down 22.5p at 677.5p, EasyJet down 38p at 1,176p and Lloyds down 1.83p at 63.2p.

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