Markets take a knock as US GDP fails to grow as fast as hoped

Markets drifted aimlessly on Thursday as traders reversed some of the gains made earlier in the week.

This included the FTSE 100, which closed the day down 25.14 points, or 0.35%, at 7124.98.

In the dog days of August, with trading volumes at traditional lows, most were waiting for US Fed chief Jerome Powell’s Jackson Hole speech on Friday where he will give his overview of the economy.

With little in the way of major economic news, market watchers were keeping their eyes out for scraps to bring about some excitement, and typically turn to the US for a booster.

This came in the form of jobs data and the latest revision to the US’s GDP data for the second quarter, which was revised up slightly, but not enough to cause excitement.

Josh Mahony, senior market analyst at IG, said: “Markets throughout the US and Europe are on the back foot this afternoon, with stocks largely in a holding pattern as we await tomorrow’s Jackson Hole speech from Jerome Powell.

“An upward revision to the US (second quarter) GDP reading fell short of expectations, with the annualised growth figure of 6.6% marginally below estimates of 6.7%.

“Elsewhere, we have seen the first upward move for initial jobless claims in five-weeks, with continuing claims also struggling to maintain its downward trajectory.

“Evidently, we are seeing a trend of slowing growth and economic expansion, with rising costs one concern for both consumer and economic alike.”

The French Cac and German Dax also closed the day down, dropping 0.16% and 0.42% respectively.

The pound fell 0.04% against the dollar to 1.371 and down 0.1% against the euro at 1.166.

In company news, Mike Ashley’s future son-in-law, Michael Murray, was well on his way to boosting the retail tycoon’s Frasers Group share price, with shares closing up 6.5p at 656.5p.

It was announced late on Wednesday that Mr Murray is in line for a potential £100 million share bonanza if he can get the share price up, under a new incentive plan now that he has taken over the reins from Mr Ashley at the head of the business.

Recruitment giant Hays posted a 2% rise in pre-tax profits to £88.1 million for the year to June 30, with growth ramping up in the second half as the pandemic created more business opportunities.

Group fees fell 24% in the final six months of 2020, but rebounded by 13% in the first six months of this year, including a 39% in the fourth quarter.

The boosts kept shareholders hopeful for further growth as the job market heats up, with shares in Hays closing up 6.4p at 163.4p.

British Land updated investors on its plans to focus on campus assets, alongside retail and fulfilment projects through £350 million of recent sales and acquisitions.

This included a technology park in Cambridge for £75 million and a business park in Guildford for £12 million. Shareholders were muted in their enthusiasm, with shares closing down 0.2p at 528.6p.

And Watches of Switzerland revealed they have poached Bill Floydd from casino and bingo hall owner Rank Group to be the company’s next finance chief. Shares closed up 2p at 1,016p.

The biggest risers on the FTSE 100 were CRH up 148p at 3,921p; ITV up 1.9p at 118.35p; Ocado up 18p at 2,067p; Imperial Brands up 12.5p at 1,537.5p and Royal Mail up 3.9p at 494.1p.

The biggest fallers were Polymetal down 55p at 1,468.5p; Melrose down 5.7p at 165.95p; Antofagasta down 40p at 1,427.5p; Rio Tinto down 106p at 5,316p and Aviva down 7.6p at 413.3p.