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LONDON MARKET OPEN: FTSE 100 falls; retail sales plunge in April

24th May 2024 08:55

(Alliance News) - Stock prices in London opened lower on Friday, with sentiment hurt across the globe.

In early economic news, UK retail sales came in below forecasts after a damp April.

The FTSE 100 index opened down 53.88 points, 0.7%, at 8,285.35. The FTSE 250 was down 95.18 points, 0.5%, at 20,536.12, and the AIM All-Share was down 2.37 points, 0.3%, at 802.65.

The Cboe UK 100 was down 0.7% at 826.62, the Cboe UK 250 was down 0.6% at 17,972.38, and the Cboe Small Companies was down 0.2% at 16,515.13.

In European equities on Friday, the CAC 40 in Paris was down 0.5%, while the DAX 40 in Frankfurt was down 0.8%.

In the US on Thursday, Wall Street ended lower, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 1.5%, the S&P 500 down 0.7% and the Nasdaq Composite down 0.4%.

Risk sentiment across global equity markets suffers following stronger-than-expected US jobs and PMI data, which curbed hopes of interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve.

In Asia on Friday, the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo was down 1.2%. In China, the Shanghai Composite was down 0.9%, while the Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was down 1.5%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Sydney closed down 1.1%.

In early economic news, UK retail sales fell in April, as miserable weather kept shoppers at home, according to a first estimate.

Retail sales fell by 2.7% in April from a year prior, the Office for National Statistics said. Sales had increased by 0.4% on-year in March, being revised up from being flat previously.

According to FXStreet, retail sales were expected to fall by just 0.2% annually in April.

Sales fell by 2.3% in April from March, following a 0.2% fall in March from February. March's reading was worse than consensus of just a 0.4% slip.

"Retail sales were as gloomy as the weather in April. An early Easter and persistent wet weather washed away demand. It’s clear there is a lag between inflation softening and sales volumes picking up. But if inflation continues its downward trajectory, we may see that translate into greater consumer confidence and lead to selective volume recovery in some retail categories," said Bogdan Toma at McKinsey & Co.

London's retailers were down on Friday morning. Primark owner Associated British Foods lost 0.5%, Marks & Spencer shed 0.6%, and Tesco was down 0.3%.

The UK election is also already heating up, with focus on energy policy.

The Tory and Labour parties clashed on energy policy for the UK as the general election campaign focused on the prospect of cheaper household bills.

Labour leader Keir Starmer is using a visit to Scotland to promote his plan for a publicly-owned green electricity generator, which he said would cut bills and boost energy security.

Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho set out plans for consumer-friendly changes and accused Labour of not being "honest about the costs" that their plans for net zero power would involve.

The row came as regulator Ofgem early Friday set out the latest level for the energy price cap on average bills.

The watchdog said the average household energy bill will drop by around 7% from July 1, when the latest change to the price cap takes effect. This means the average UK household will pay GBP122 less per year.

The pound was quoted at USD1.2699 early on Friday in London, lower compared to USD1.2710 at the equities close on Thursday. The euro stood at USD1.0820, down against USD1.0830. Against the yen, the dollar was trading at JPY157.06, lower compared to JPY157.13.

In the FTSE 100, Intertek was the best performer, up 2.8%.

The London-based provider of assurance, testing, inspection and certification services said that between January and April revenue amounted to GBP1.08 billion. This represents growth of 7.5% at constant currency and 2.0% at actual rates.

Intertek explained that margin progression was driven by pricing, operating leverage, cost controls and productivity improvements.

GSK lost 0.7%.

The London-based pharmaceuticals firm welcomed the jury verdict in the Valadez case in Illinois state court finding in GSK's favour in the first Zantac case to go to trial.

Zantac was a heartburn drug that was pulled off the market in 2020 at the request of the US Food & Drug Administration, after low levels of a "probable carcinogen" were found in samples. The carcinogen, known as NDMA, is not harmful in very small amounts. However, tests showed that there were excessive quantities of NDMA in ranitidine, otherwise known as Zantac.

In the FTSE 250, abrdn rose 1.5%.

The Edinburgh-based investment company said that Stephen Bird as stepped down as CEO, after four years in the role.

Jason Windsor, currently chief financial officer, has been appointed as interim CEO.

It has also launched a formal search process for a permanent CEO, which includes the consideration of external candidates.

Brent oil was quoted at USD81.08 a barrel early in London on Friday, down from USD81.58 late Thursday. Gold was quoted at USD2,337.30 an ounce, down against USD2,340.90.

Still to come on Friday's economic calendar, there are US durable goods orders at 1330 BST.

By Sophie Rose, Alliance News senior reporter

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