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29 Mar 2021 | 16:33

London close: Stocks slightly weaker as pound dents FTSE 100

(Sharecast News) - London stocks closed just below the waterline on Monday, as a stronger pound put the brakes on the top-flight index. The FTSE 100 ended the session down 0.07% at 6,376.17, and the FTSE 250 was 0.24% weaker at 21,435.54.

Sterling was trading stronger, meanwhile, last gaining 0.03% on the dollar to $1.3793, and advancing 0.15% on the euro to change hands at €1.1712.

"UK markets are lagging their mainland European counterparts today, with a strengthening pound doing little to help the FTSE 100," said IG senior market analyst Joshua Mahony.

"Shipping in the Suez Canal returned to normality today, with the 'Ever Given' being dislodged after shutting the critical waterway for almost a week.

"Energy markets have seen a general lack of direction as traders attempt to assess whether this blockage will make any lasting impact on global crude supply."

Rising US 10-year Treasury yields, meanwhile, were denting confidence in precious metals, Mahony noted, with gold, silver, and palladium all on the back foot.

"That rise in yields predictably came at the detriment of growth stocks, with the Nasdaq leading the way lower in the US."

Earlier in the day, Japanese bank Nomura and Credit Suisse were sharply lower after they warned of big losses after Archegos Capital defaulted on margin calls.

On the economic front, retail footfall across the UK rose again last week on the anniversary of the first national lockdown, as the easing of restrictions on non-essential shops drew closer.

According to retail analyst Springboard, footfall was up 6.6% from the week before, which was a big improvement on the 0.5% jump seen the previous week.

Year-on-year, footfall was 68.1% higher than in the same week in 2020, but remained 57.3% lower than in 2019.

"Despite the significant gap in activity levels from 2019, footfall once again rose last week from the week before as it has done so in eight of the past nine weeks," said Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard.

"However, the uplift was much larger last week, and this was primarily a result of far greater footfall in retail parks and shopping centres; the rise in retail parks most likely due to shoppers upgrading their gardens in advance of the relaxation of restrictions this week."

According to the lockdown easing roadmap outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month, non-essential shops in England will be allowed to reopen on 12 April.

UK mortgage approvals, meanwhile, fell more than expected in February ahead of the original stamp duty holiday deadline.

The Bank of England said mortgage approvals declined to 87,669 from 97,350 in January, against expectations of a smaller drop to 95,000.

Mortgage approvals were higher than in February last year, but had fallen from a peak of 103,700 in November.

Still, approvals were still well above the monthly average in the six months to February 2020 of 67,300, and net mortgage borrowing totalled £6.2bn in February, making for the highest level since March 2016.

The stamp duty holiday was due to end on 31 March, but in his budget earlier in the month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended it to the end of June.

"The extension of the stamp duty holiday and the renewed strength of the survey data suggest that lending will remain high for most of this year," said Andrew Wishart, property economist at Capital Economics.

"Mortgage approvals for house purchase are likely to reach their highest level since 2007 this year."

In equity markets, Renishaw was up 4.17% after Bloomberg reported late on Friday that the engineer, which has put itself up for sale, was attracting initial interest from Swedish rival Hexagon AB and US medical equipment maker Danaher.

Financial services platform AJ Bell rose 1.71% after it lifted full-year revenue guidance as it continued to see rising customer numbers in the first half.

The company said it expected revenue for the 12 months to 30 September to be at least £6m higher than its own compiled forecasts of £136m.

In broker note action, BT Group added 2.94% after an upgrade to 'overweight' at Morgan Stanley, while housebuilder Barratt Developments was knocked 2.73% lower by a downgrade to 'neutral' at JPMorgan.

Market Movers

FTSE 100 (UKX) 6,736.17 -0.07% FTSE 250 (MCX) 21,435.54 -0.24% techMARK (TASX) 4,234.34 0.21%

FTSE 100 - Risers

Renishaw (RSW) 6,250.00p 4.17% Reckitt Benckiser Group (RB.) 6,548.00p 3.01% BT Group (BT.A) 152.40p 2.94% United Utilities Group (UU.) 926.80p 2.14% Severn Trent (SVT) 2,342.00p 1.87% British American Tobacco (BATS) 2,828.50p 1.84% AstraZeneca (AZN) 7,394.00p 1.69% Diageo (DGE) 3,027.00p 1.48% Unilever (ULVR) 4,098.00p 1.34% Smith & Nephew (SN.) 1,378.00p 1.25%

FTSE 100 - Fallers

Flutter Entertainment (CDI) (FLTR) 15,935.00p -3.31% Persimmon (PSN) 2,927.00p -3.11% Smiths Group (SMIN) 1,512.50p -3.04% Entain (ENT) 1,510.00p -2.86% Barratt Developments (BDEV) 749.60p -2.73% Rightmove (RMV) 579.80p -2.55% Fresnillo (FRES) 893.60p -2.47% Antofagasta (ANTO) 1,655.00p -2.36% Vodafone Group (VOD) 132.48p -2.14% International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (CDI) (IAG) 192.20p -2.11%

FTSE 250 - Risers

Micro Focus International (MCRO) 550.00p 4.68% Helios Towers (HTWS) 165.60p 4.65% SSP Group (SSPG) 351.20p 4.52% Greggs (GRG) 2,262.00p 3.95% Cineworld Group (CINE) 106.65p 3.59% Savills (SVS) 1,164.00p 3.28% Rank Group (RNK) 187.80p 3.19% Pets at Home Group (PETS) 406.60p 3.09% Watches of Switzerland Group (WOSG) 679.00p 2.57% Liontrust Asset Management (LIO) 1,410.00p 2.55%

FTSE 250 - Fallers

Capita (CPI) 41.27p -5.18% Hochschild Mining (HOC) 194.60p -4.42% ITV (ITV) 122.65p -4.19% Wood Group (John) (WG.) 278.20p -3.97% Network International Holdings (NETW) 400.80p -3.88% Trainline (TRN) 450.00p -3.66% Direct Line Insurance Group (DLG) 310.50p -3.06% UDG Healthcare Public Limited Company (CDI) (UDG) 798.50p -2.98% TP Icap Group (TCAP) 237.50p -2.96% Drax Group (DRX) 437.80p -2.93%
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