FTSE 100 edges into red on subdued trading day

The FTSE 100 nudged marginally higher on a quiet trading day as concerns over US-China tensions pressed down on global markets.

Trading sentiment was subdued throughout the session, but many markets handed back what little gains they made in the afternoon due to concerns about the US-China relationship and mixed labour data from the US.

London’s top flight closed 4.34 points higher at 6,211.44p at the end of trading on Thursday.

David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said: “The strained relationship between the US and China has been an issue lately and now the situation is a little worse.

“It was reported the Chinese government ordered the closure of the US consulate in Chengdu – as a way of hitting back at the US’s decision to close the Chinese consulate in Houston.

“On its own, it isn’t a major issue, but there has been an absence of positive news today.”

The major European markets both dipped into the red after brief spells in positive territory earlier in the day.

The German Dax decreased by 0.01%, while the French Cac moved 0.07% lower.

Across the Atlantic, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 both moved lower on the opening bell as new US jobs data fell short of expectations, with jobless claims increasing from 1.3 million to 1.41 million.

Meanwhile, sterling was mixed as traders digested a record decline in factory output between May and July, while there were also concerns over a lack of progress during talks with the EU.

The pound rose 0.06% versus the US dollar at 1.274 and was down 0.31% against the euro at 1.097.

Multinational consumer giants, such as Diageo and Reckitt Benckiser, jumped as investors in the sector welcomed a strong performance by Unilever.

Unilever saw shares surge after it posted higher half-year profits following a better-than-feared sales performance amid the coronavirus crisis.

Shares in the company closed 341p higher at 4,671p after it reported a 4% hike in pre-tax profits to 4.5 billion euros (£3.5 billion) for the first half of 2020 and announced the spin-off of part of its tea business.

Elsewhere in company news, Daily Mail & General Trust improved in share value after it said its newspaper arm returned to profit last month.

The Daily Mail owner nevertheless saw swung to a group loss during the coronavirus lockdown. Shares closed 21p higher at 655p.

Shares in G4S jumped after the outsourcing giant posted a better-than-expected first half thanks to a strong performance from its security business. Shares increased by 10.15p to 146.75p.

Spreadbetting firm IG Group slipped 90p to 744p despite reporting a 52% jump in profits as it kept its dividend still despite improvements.

The price of oil drifted into the red as the slightly downbeat mood in the markets overall weighed down on the energy.

The price of a barrel of Brent crude oil decreased by 0.11% to 44.22 US dollars.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were Unilever, up 341p at 4,671p, Sae, up 46.6p at 753.6p, Polymetal, up 104.5p at 1,811.5p, and Melrose, up 5.6p at 108.9p.

The biggest fallers of the day were SSE, down 90p at 1,337.5p, Informa, down 22.6p at 406.3p, Pennon, down 41p at 1,054p, and RELX, down 64.5p at 1,700p.

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