FTSE flat despite positive sentiment from US-China trade progress

The FTSE 100 started Easter week in quiet fashion, despite progress in US-China trade talks helping boost global sentiment.

London’s top flight remained broadly flat, closing down just 0.19 points at 7,436.87.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets, said: “Equity markets are mixed heading into the close as an absence of major macroeconomic news has left some traders unenthused.

“Steven Mnuchin claimed that US-China trade talks are making progress, and that is keeping investors happy, but not much detail was given, and at some point investors would like to know more.”

The US treasury secretary’s comments were welcomed by City investors, after last Friday’s import and export data revealed an 11% drop in trade with China this year.

In company news, Barclays was buoyed by calls from activist investor Edward Bramson for a strategic shift, after the bank opposed his appointment to the board.

Barclays shares closed up 1.7p at 167.7p, after Bramson, who holds a 5.5% stake in Barclays, urged the board to adopt a “more realistic and shareholder-oriented” strategy.

EasyJet rose to near the top of the FTSE 100, buoyed by news that Jet Airways has failed to secure emergency funding from its lenders.

Shares rose 25.5p to 1,176.5p.

Fiona Cincotta, at City Index, said: “Investors weighed up the extent to which the low-cost airline could benefit from the aviation industry’s latest casualty.”

Elsewhere, IWG shares surged after the company announced plans to sell its Japanese office business for £320 million. Shares rose 58.3p to 334p.

Kier Group received a timely boost, rising 27p to 375p, after its announced that new boss Andrew Davies will be spearheading a strategic review at the embattled construction firm.

Recruitment firm Robert Walters dropped 16p to 580p despite its growing Asian business driving first quarter growth.

The UK and Europe markets both also delivered strong growth, up 10% each, despite uncertainty over Brexit.

The pound started the week positively as currency traders took a breather from Brexit, with MPs taking an Easter break.

Sterling rose 0.4% against the dollar at 1.310 at London market close, while it gained 0.2% against the euro at 1.159.

Ms Cincotta added: “The pound started the week in a lacklustre manner, with investors pausing for breath after the whirlwind of recent Brexit developments.

“With Parliament on Easter break, pound traders will have a well-earned break from Brexit drama driving sterling and will switch attention back towards data.”

Elsehwere in Europe, the German Dax was up 0.17% and the French Cac was 0.11% higher.

In oil, a barrel of Brent crude was changing hands at 71 US dollars, a fall of 0.6%.

The biggest risers in the FTSE 100 were Paddy Power up 188p at 6,348p,
EasyJet up 25.5p at 1,176.5p, Prudential up 30p to 1,702p and Spirax up 130p at 8,010p.

The biggest fallers were Compass Group, down 39.5p at 1,753.5p, Anglo American down 44.5p at 2,165p, Antofagasta down 20p at 1,002.5p, and BHP Group down 32.2p at 1,903p.