Brexit extension chatter soothes the stock market

The FTSE 100 had a steady day on Wednesday as traders tried to take stock of a whirlwind week in Westminster as Brexit creaks ever closer.

The leading London index closed the day up 48.25 points at 7,260.74 – staying above the opening level for the majority of the day.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson getting agreement in principle for his Brexit deal from MPs, but not the fast turnaround he desired, markets appeared to agree that an October 31 deadline is looking far from likely.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “The possibility of a no-deal Brexit seems to have been greatly reduced, which is music to dealers’ ears. While there remains a lack of clarity in relation to Brexit, stock markets are likely to meander.

“Things haven’t gone exactly according to plan for Prime Minister Johnson, but the fact that he managed to strike a deal with the EU, and get support for it, suggests that things are heading in the right direction.”

Elsewhere in Europe, France and Germany had a less impressive session with the Paris Cac 40 flat and the Frankfurt Dax up 0.34%.

The pound movement against the dollar, which has veered wildly in recent days, ticked up 0.17% to 1.2889 dollars. Against the euro it was up 0.2% at 1.159 euros.

In company news, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct had a double header day.

The firm announced a new auditor in RSM – after coming within a whisker of having an auditor appointed by the Government after the Big Four refused to work for Mr Ashley’s business.

Sports Direct also used the stock market announcement system to allege that Goals Soccer Centres did not properly consider a possible takeover by the retailer. Shares in Sports Direct closed down 0.8p at 319.2p.

Just Eat investors continued to voice their opposition to a £4.9 billion hostile approach from investment vehicle Prosus.

Aberdeen Standard Investments, which has a 5.2% stake in Just Eat, said to even consider any offer the suitors must increase their offer by at least 20%.

But despite protestations, shares closed up 11.66p at 743.66p – suggesting a new bid is to be expected.

Elsewhere, the American investor which pushed the Saatchi brothers out of the advertising company which bore their name has taken a near-£700 million stake in Rolls-Royce, as the company struggles with its plane engines.

Harris Associates revealed on Wednesday it had built up a 5% share of the firm, sending shares up 1.8p to 726.6p.

Pub group Fuller, Smith & Turner agreed a £40 million deal to buy Cotswold Inns & Hotels.

Fuller’s said it has taken control of the hotel-focused business which consists of seven freehold country inns, eight freehold cottages and two leasehold bars in Birmingham. Shares closed down 25p at 1,010p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were M&G up 11.35p to 214p; Evraz up 12.8p at 393p; Standard Life Aberdeen up 8.1p at 299.6p; CRH up 66p at 2,782p; and Prudential up 33.5p at 1,437p.

The biggest fallers were Royal Bank Scotland down 7p at 233.7p; Hiscox down 44p at 1,480p; London Stock Exchange Group down 198p at 6,936p; Barratt Developments down 16.2p at 652.6p; and Berkeley Group down 104p at 4,437p.

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