London markets held back by strong pound as European counterparts jump

The London market slipped as it was left trailing its European counterparts, which jumped after positive Chinese factory data.

New figures revealed that China swung back to a trade surplus in March and the decline in exports from the country slowed down from the previous two months.

However, strength in the pound hit multinational firms in the FTSE, pulling London’s top flight into the red.

The FTSE 100 closed 51.35 points lower at 5,791.31 at the end of trading on Tuesday.

The index was also weakened by a slump in the value of oil as the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia continued.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “The FTSE 100 was slightly in the red, and the British market has the fall in oil stocks to blame, as Royal Dutch Shell and BP weighed on the index.”

Europe’s other major markets closed in the green despite the IMF warning that coronavirus will result in the sharpest recession in nearly a century.

Traders were buoyed by suggestions that some European countries have passed their peaks for the virus, with some starting to relax lockdown restrictions.

Mr Madden added: “Optimism is doing the rounds as some of the restrictions in Spain and Italy have been lifted.

“Some industries in both countries have seen work resume, and that has encouraged traders to snap up stocks, as there might be light at the end of the tunnel.”

The German Dax increased by 1.25%, while the French Cac moved 0.38% higher.

Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones opened bullishly on the back of cautious optimism that current restrictions are working and the US authorities are starting to get a handle on the situation.

UK deficit (as % of GDP): coronavirus scenario
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, sterling held up strongly against the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) which suggested that the UK economy could shrink 35% between April and June.

The value of the pound rose 0.93% versus the US dollar at 1.262 and was up 0.38% against the euro at 1.150.

In company news, fashion giant Next saw shares rise after it returned to selling clothes online as extra safety measures were put in place to ensure warehouse staff can work safely.

But by 9am the website had closed again, saying it had already received all the orders it could process for the day, but it would return on Wednesday. Shares moved 116p higher to 4,740p.

Elsewhere, British Gas owner Centrica declined after it appointed its own finance director as its new chief executive officer following a nine-month search.

Chris O’Shea, who has been with the business since November 2018, has stepped up to lead the business. Shares moved 2.42p lower to 33.16p.

Shares in easyJet drifted lower after founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou ratcheted up his feud against the company’s leadership, after he called for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to intervene. It fell 11.4p to 669.8p.

The price of oil was driven lower as traders remained concerned by the sharp drop-off in demand for oil.

The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil decreased 5.5% to 29.98 US dollars.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Ocado, up 116.5p at 1,484.5p, AstraZeneca, up 485p at 7,606p, Polymetal International, up 99p at 1,609p, and Croda International, up 273p at 4,685p.

The biggest fallers of the day were Taylor Wimpey, down 14.7p at 127.2p, Barratt Developments, down 48.1p at 464.3p, Informa, down 36.9p at 426.2p, and Intercontinental Hotel Group, down 295p at 3,415p.

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